© RIA Novosti, Michael Alaeddin
Since the end of August, units of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Armed Forces' Republican Guard have kicked off active combat operations against the rebels in the administrative center of the southern Deraa Governorate. The main efforts by the government troops and foreign Shiite militia detachments in the division's battle formations are focused on capturing the old quarters at the southern edge of the city called Deraa al-Balad. It is here that the key dissident armed forces are concentrated.
The government army uses artillery and mortars as part of street fighting. Despite lacking artillery means for the defenders, the back-and-forth hostilities have yielded no significant advantage with any of the parties. Local militants use rush tactics against government forces, combining their actions with a safe getaway. For this reason, the attackers take disturbing casualties both in manpower and military equipment.
On August 28, hostilities spread beyond the governorate's administrative center to cover the western and northern districts. Sporadic armed clashes are observed in the settlements of Al-Museyfara, Sayda, and Tafs. Here, the government forces also actively engage artillery and armored vehicles to suppress resistance.
According to information obtained from an anonymous source within the governorate's negotiating committee, the government forces began active military actions after the rebels' emphatic refusal to hand over about 50 militants for their forcible transfer to the country's northern regions. The field commanders also refused to surrender small arms at the formations' disposal and demanded the withdrawal of the 4th Division and all the foreign Shiite militias from the governorate.
A spokesman for the central (governmental) negotiating committee told a French news agency that ahead of the offensive, the rebels were asked to lay down their arms, hand over the rest of militants on the list, and ensure the deployment of a checkpoint network in Deraa al-Balad and other areas under joint control of the Russian military police and the Syrian internal security forces (military counterintelligence). The militants rejected the offer.
According to local authorities, the last two days alone saw the total number of refugees from war zones exceed 38 thousand people concentrated in rural settlements of southern Syria next to the border with Jordan. At the same time, up to 40 thousand residents remain in Deraa's old quarters unable to leave the combat zone due to constant artillery and mortar fire.
In turn, an unnamed Russian military police officer, who took part in negotiations between the warring Syrian parties, told a German news agency that consultations on resolving the crisis were interrupted, and there are virtually no prospects for their resumption in the unfolding situation. At the same time, he blamed both sides of the conflict for their failure, as they bridled at following the compromise and constantly broke the deal.
The danger is that discontent hotbed may spread to other parts of the country, along with stepped-up subversive activities of the extremist underground and public riots against the authorities. The protesters have a right to demand that the government accelerate socio-political reforms, improve economic environment, stop corruption that has affected the entire government machine roof to catacombs, and, finally, provide for a regime change.
Apparently, Syria's political leadership commits a vital error as regards the situation in Deraa Governorate, which may entail an unpredictable outcome. Like it happened in 2011.