Syrian Army, Allies Attack Militants in Deraa

Smoke rises after shelling on a militant-held area of Deraa, Syria, on June 4.Smoke rises after shelling on a militant-held area of Deraa, Syria, on June 4.

The Syrian Army and its allied forces have escalated attacks against a militant-held part of the southern city of Deraa, a possible prelude to a large-scale campaign to wrest full control of the city, militants and residents said on Monday.

The intensive raids and bombing strikes mainly pounded the southern part of Deraa, strategically located on the border with Jordan and where the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad erupted six years ago, Reuters reported.

The army has not commented on its troop buildup in Deraa or the escalating aerial bombing.

More reinforcements from the army and its allies, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias, are also being rushed to the city from several locations near the capital, Damascus.

Troops were using the Damascus-Deraa Highway, a major supply route where well-fortified trenches on both sides of the road have made it more difficult for militants to mount attacks.

Major Issam al Rayes, spokesman of the so-called Southern Front grouping of the Free Syrian Army militants who are supported by an Arab-West coalition, said large columns of Syrian troops from the elite 4th Armored Division and Hezbollah forces have arrived.

The troops being sent as reinforcements are considered to be the Syrian Army’s elite division, which has the best training and equipment.

Militants say the troop buildup and relentless aerial bombing in recent weeks pointed to a major campaign for what the FSA militants see as a decisive battle.

Adham al-Karad, the commander of the missile brigade in FSA’s Southern Front, said: “Our surveillance shows troop carriers and heavy armor ... If it continues at this same level of reinforcements, this will be very large.”


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