Daraa offensive (June–July 2015)
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The Daraa offensive ("Operation Southern Storm" or "Aasefat al-Janoub") was a rebel operation in the Daraa Governorate, during the Syrian Civil War. It was led by the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army and also included the Army of Conquest "southern sector", of which the Al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham are part of, against Syrian government forces defending Daraa city and the surrounding towns.
Repulsion of initial assault
Prior to 25 June 2015, Syrian government administration had been evacuated from Daraa much the same way as they had before the Second Battle of Idlib, and the Southern Storm command declared the Damascus–Daraa road a "closed military zone" to try to stop supplies and reinforcements getting to soldiers in Daraa.
The offensive, which was planned by the Free Syrian Army and involved a new "higher central operations room", began with the FSA and other rebel groups (54 in total) storming Dara’a Al-Balad District and the Al-Manasheer District of Daraa city in the early morning. Rebels also attacked the town of Ghazleh. The Syrian Army responded by dropping at least 60 barrel bombs on rebel positions. Rebels advanced towards the western entrance of Daraa and captured five checkpoints near the national hospital and Air Force Intelligence building, but were reportedly pushed back by government forces around Dara’a Al-Balad and Al-Manasheer. The rebel attack on the Damascus–Daraa highway was also reportedly repelled.
Mohammed al-Asfar, a 19-year-old Al Jazeera cameraman, was killed by shelling during fighting on 26 June. By this point, opposition activists claimed that rebel forces had made further advances, capturing the headquarters of the State Security and the Air Force Intelligence branch, which allegedly left them in control of 85% of Daraa city. However, two days later, although pro-government Al-Masdar News acknowledged that the rebels achieved some success at the town of ‘Itman, north of the city, and inside the Industrial District, it stated that many of these gains had been reversed. In addition, days later, a commander who was a member of the rebel media office confirmed opposition media had exaggerated rebel gains and described the announcement that wide areas of Daraa were captured, as well as the coming of the battle days before it was launched, as "media chaos and publishing [of] inaccurate news" which the offensive's operation room could not restrain.
On 27 June, the operation room of the "Southern Storm" battle was attacked by Islamist gunmen, resulting in several injuries and the withdrawal of the attacked rebel factions from the battlefield. That government troops managed to repel the major rebel assault on the provincial capital stood in stark contrast to a string of setbacks they had suffered in previous months.
As of 2 July, the rebels had failed to make any significant progress. Fighting was reported in the outskirts of Itman, in an attempt to cut the Syrian Army's supply route, with the Air Force conducting airstrikes and the Damascus-Daraa highway still fully held by the Syrian Army. The following day, it was reported that the lack of advances was due to the coordination between the Southern Front and the Army of Conquest in the area being hampered by a lack of cohesion. This stemmed from the FSA's First Army refusing to align itself with the al-Nusra Front. The Southern Front's spokesman stated that they sought to exclude al-Nusra from the offensive, which in turn caused al-Nusra to respond in kind, causing problems.
Attempted renewal of the offensive
On 8 July, the rebels reportedly renewed their offensive. However, as of 10 July, the rebels had failed to make much headway in the face of stiff resistance by the Army, backed up by heavy air strikes on rebel positions.
On 13 August, the rebels took Tal Za'tar hill, near the western suburbs of the city, but it was reportedly recaptured by the Army the next day.
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- Syrian rebels escalate attacks on army in southern Deraa city
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- "Gunmen attack the room operations of the battles in city of Daraa". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. 28 June 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- Leith Fadel. "The Southern Front Offensives Fail on Three Fronts". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- Elijah J. Magnier [@EjmAlrai] (27 June 2015). "Sources in Daraa told me that rebels have lost around 200 fighters in the failed campaign. Government sources says over 300 rebels killed" (Tweet). Retrieved 7 July 2015 – via Twitter.
- Leith Abou Fadel [@LeithFadel] (27 June 2015). "Over 110 terrorists have been killed at Daraa City in the last 72 hours; 28 soldiers from the Syrian Arab Army have been killed" (Tweet). Retrieved 7 July 2015 – via Twitter.
- Rebels, Qaeda launch assault on Syria’s Daraa
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The new offensive started around dawn Thursday, aiming to 'liberate the city of Daraa,' said Maj. Issam el Rayyes, spokesman for the Southern Front, a coalition of several dozen moderate rebel groups that is leading the push.
- Cafarella, Jennifer (2 July 2015). "Rebels Launch New Offensive in Southern Syria". Institute for the Study of War. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
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rebels are poised to capture Deraa on the border with Jordan. They have already taken a neighbouring military base while the government has reportedly evacuated its administration from the city — which is what it did before the northern city of Idlib fell in March.
- Lund, Aron (25 June 2015). "The Battle for Deraa". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
The Southern Storm offensive has been engineered by commanders in the so-called Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army
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- Leith Fadel. "Southern Front fails to cutoff [sic] Damascus-Dara'a Road". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
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- Joscelyn, Thomas (3 July 2015). "Al Nusrah Front, allies form new coalition for battle in Aleppo". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
Jaysh al Fateh ('Army of the Conquest') in the South was founded on June 20 as an alternative to the Southern Front, which comprises various FSA factions. The First Army, an FSA group in Southern Front, has rejected cooperation with Jaysh al Fateh, preferring to fight the Assad regime without entering into a formal alliance with al Qaeda’s official branch in the country [...] The insurgents have complained in the press and online about a lack of coordination between the two main coalitions fighting Assad in the south, blaming a lack of cohesion for their inability to deal a decisive blow to the regime.
- Perry, Tom; Al-Khalidi, Suleiman (9 July 2015). "After gains, Syria rebels face tough fight for Deraa, Aleppo". Reuters. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
The Southern Front groups, widely assessed as the main rebel force in the south, have sought to exclude the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front from the operation. Nusra had responded by trying to obstruct the assault, Southern Front spokesman Isaam al-Rayyes said. "This had an impact."
- "Syria Direct: News Update 7-8-15". SyriaDirect.org. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (14 August 2015). "Breaking: Syrian Army Recaptures Tal Za'tar in West Dara'a". AlmasdarNews.com. Retrieved 1 April 2017.