Rebels, Qaeda launch assault on Syria’s Daraa

Residents inspect damage from what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad in Tafas town in Daraa, Syria. (File photo: Reuters)

Rebels that include Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate announced a fierce offensive on the major southern city of Dara, saying their aim was to “purify” the area.

Operation “Storm of Truth” was announced on Twitter by the Southern Front, an alliance of rebel groups, “to purify the province of Daraa from the filth of the gangs of (President Bashar al-) Assad.”

Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and other Islamist militias were taking part in the fighting, said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.

“The violent attack began this morning on regime-held parts of Daraa city, with both sides exchanging shellfire,” he told AFP.

“The groups are attacking government positions in northern parts of the city, but they haven’t seized buildings yet,” Abdel Rahman said.

According to the Britain-based Observatory, five rebels -- including two group commanders -- have been killed so far.

Opposition groups already control parts of the city and about 70 percent of the province of the same name, which borders Jordan.

Thursday’s offensive appears to be a continuation of an assault in June, launched by the same groups but dubbed “Southern Storm.”

That round of fighting left at least 60 rebels, 18 loyalists and 11 civilians dead.

Syria’s regime has already lost two provincial capitals -- Idlib in the northwest, which is held a rebel alliance including Al-Nusra, and Raqa in the Euphrates valley, which is held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

At least 230,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in Daraa in 2011.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46
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