2021 Daraa offensive
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|2021 Daraa offensive|
|Part of the Daraa insurgency of the Syrian civil war|
Locations of the clashes
|Syria|| Reconciled rebels|
Syrian opposition loyalists
8th Brigade of the 5th Corps (occasional clashes)
|Commanders and leaders|
| Firas Issa|
Unnamed Brigadier †
Mohamed Hilal Zatima †
| Military Intelligence Directorate|
Air Force Intelligence Directorate
| Anti-government militants|
|Casualties and losses|
| 32 killed|
| 12 killed |
6 killed (5th Corps)
|22 civilians killed|
The 2021 Daraa offensive was an offensive between rebel fighters and Syrian government forces in the Daraa Governorate. The offensive saw heavy clashes throughout the governorate, particularly in the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood, which was besieged by government troops.
The southern city of Daraa, Daraa al-Balad, was the same place where the civil uprising against the Syrian government started back in March 2011. Therefore it was a major blow for the rebels when they were defeated in the province in 2018. Reconciliation deals were made and the rebels had to hand over their weapons to the Syrian Army. Those militants who did not accept the deal were transferred to the Idlib Governorate. Despite recapturing all lost territories, the Syrian Army was not able to deploy troops across the entire province. This caused rising insurgency attacks and assassinations among government forces.
By the end of June, Russia urged new reconciliation deals to seize personal weapons of the people in Daraa city. The request was widely rejected across the area. Following the rejection of the Russian demands Syrian Army security forces imposed a siege on the neighbourhoods of Daraa al-Balad to exert pressure on the residents of the city. As a result 11,000 Syrian families were besieged after the former FSA fighters refused to hand over their weapons. The persistent siege led to extortionate prices on goods and limited availability of drinking water. After a few weeks the negotiation committees of Daraa and the Syrian government reached an agreement to end the siege and evade a military escalation. The deal will be implemented as an five-phase agreement in which all roads will be reopened, rebel light weapons will be handed over and the government can keep three checkpoints in the city.
Despite the agreement with the negotiation committees to evade a military operation, the Syrian Army started to fire artillery shells towards insurgent cells in Daraa city on 29 July 2021. Syrian Army sources described the attack as “start of a military operation against hideouts of terrorists who thwarted a reconciliation deal.” According to a pro-government military officer, notables in Daraa's al-Balad district had promised the government forces to peacefully hand over the weapons of local insurgents. However, this transfer did not come to pass, and disputes devolved into fighting. In contrast, pro-opposition figures accused the government of failure to adhere to the agreement including promises to stay out of al-Balad district.
The government's operation led to actions of retaliation by rebels across the province. The fighters involved in the attack are former rebel fighters that surrendered to the government in 2018, as well as former rebels that defected to the government, and had been working against the government from within. Anti-government fighters seized several checkpoints and captured many surprised Syrian Army soldiers and Military Intelligence Directorate agents. While the Syrian Army's 4th Division was leading the anti-rebel operations, the overrun checkpoints mostly belonged to the 5th Division, 9th Division, and Air Force Intelligence Directorate. Overall, 18 positions in the countryside east and west of Daraa were captured by armed locals.
The ex-rebels then offered new negotiations, but the government initially maintained its stance that weaponry had to be handed over and all non-reconciled insurgents had to be transferred to the still rebel-held Idlib Governorate. Both sides agreed to a ceasefire for 30–31 July after negotiations organized by the Russians and military officer Ahmad al-Awda. On 31 July, the situation remained tense, but most areas adhered to the ceasefire. There were sporadic instances of government forces firing at residential areas in Daraa al-Balad, Jasim, Muzayrib, and near Tafas, while an armed group consisting of ex-insurgents organized a curfew in al-Shajara.
On August 5, after several days of tense calm, rebels targeted a Syrian army vehicle on the road between Nahtah and Basr al-Harir in eastern Daraa countryside, leaving a soldier dead and 6 others wounded. There was also reported rocket fire by the Syrian army, targeting the town of Nahtah.
On August 14, hours before talks were set to take place between the Central Committee and Russian delegations, the Syrian Army bombarded Daraa al-Balad, killing one civilian.
On August 16, a member of the Syrian Army's 4th Division was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Maskin city in the north-western countryside of Daraa. A civilian was also killed by gunmen in al-Sanamayn city, after being accused of “dealing with the military security service and snitching on oppositionists”.
On August 19, an IED targeted a Syrian army convoy of the 112th Brigade on the al-Shabrouq road between the two towns of Nafaa and Ain Zakr in west of Daraa countryside, killing 6 Syrian soldiers and militiamen, including a Brigadier.
On August 20, Syrian artillery shelling in Daraa al-Balad killed Mohamed Hilal Zatima, a reconciled commander of the Free Syrian Army.
On August 25, it was reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and pro-government media that a truce and evacuation was agreed between Syrian rebels and Syrian Armed forces. Rebels forces will be allowed to leave Darás toward Syria's North (Idlib) in turn Syrian Armed forces could enter Dara al-Balad.
On August 26, one Syrian soldier was killed and 4 others were wounded after an IED exploded targeting a Syrian army vehicle on the road between Nawa and Sheikh Maskeen. This follows Syrian army bombardments on Tafas city, resulting in the death of 2 civilians and the injury of several others.
On August 27, 6 members of the reconciled 5th Corps, including a commander, were killed in a Syrian army ambush at al-Ruba’i checkpoint between al-Msifrah and al-Jizah. Fierce fighting between gunmen and the Syrian army took place on the frontline of al-Kaziyah in al-Mansheya area in Daraa al-Balad shortly after.
Between August 29 and August 30, 7 Syrian soldiers were killed in clashes with insurgents along with 12 others wounded throughout Daraa province. These events come prior to Syrian army shelling on the besiged Daraa al-Balad, that left civilian casualties.
After the heavy bombardment, the insurgents agreed to a truce on September 1, allowing for rebels to settle their status with the government. Russian military police and Syrian state forces entered the besieged Daraa al-Balad neighborhood, hoisting up the Syrian flag in the area. The truce was soon broken, with intense clashes reported on September 5. The same day, the Russian threatened the insurgents that they would take part in a government offensive if they refused to surrender.
On September 5, the insurgents agreed to another truce, with 60 militants handing over their weapons to the Syrian army. The new agreement allowed several pro-government checkpoints to be established in Daraa al-Balad.
Protests were held in support of the rebels in Daraa in the opposition-held cities of Idlib and al-Bab. On August 3, the main road connecting Arbin, Mesraba and Madira, in the Ghouta region of Rif Dimashq was cut by rebel supporters for a day before the army was deployed to the region.
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