Southwestern Daraa offensive (February 2017)

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Southwestern Daraa offensive (February 2017)
Part of the Daraa Governorate campaign and the Inter-rebel conflict of the Syrian Civil War
Free Syrian Army T-55 near Daraa.jpg
A Free Syrian Army T-55 during the battles against ISIL west of Daraa.

Map of the ISIL Daraa offensive (February 2017).svg
Map of the offensive within the wider context of South-western Syria. The simultaneously rebel offensive in Daraa city is marked with a hatched box.
Date20–27 February 2017
(1 week)
Location
Southwestern Daraa Governorate, Syria
Result

ISIL victory

  • ISIL captured Tasil, four other towns and villages, two bases and two hills[2][3][4]
  • Rebels recaptured two villages[5]
Belligerents

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army

Tahrir al-Sham[1]
Strength
1,100–1,500+[6][7] Several hundred[8]
Casualties and losses
36 killed[9] 174 killed, dozens missing[10]
9 civilians killed[9]

The Southwestern Daraa offensive (February 2017) was launched by an ISIL affiliate, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, in the southwest of Syria near the Golan Heights and on the border with Israel and Jordan.

The offensive[edit]

In preparation for the offensive, the ISIL affiliate was secretly supplied with intelligence and ammunition by members of three rebel factions in exchange for money. Recruited ISIL supporters, which included municipal employees, women and children as young as 12, had also helped to smuggle weapons and materiel into the besieged ISIL enclave.[11]

On 20 February 2017, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army took advantage of the rebel's redirection of personnel for an offensive in Daraa city and launched their large-scale offensive which resulted in them capturing Tasil, as well as four other towns and villages and a hill. The rebels managed to recapture only two towns.[12][13]

The offensive started a few hours after midnight on 19 February, when the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army hacked into FSA communications and, posing as FSA commanders, announced that rebel lines had been breached in three towns, including Tasil. They told rebel units to retreat because ISIL had already captured the villages. At the same time, ISIL sympathisers in rebel-held territory took control of the public address systems on village mosques and announced that ISIL was in control, while members of ISIL sleeper cells, which didn't number more than 10 per each village, attacked the rebels from behind and created the impression that the breach of rebel lines had indeed taken place. This led to the withdrawal of most rebel forces. The hill that was captured, was the strategic hilltop of Tal Al-Jamou that overlooks Tasil. It had 15 rebel posts, each manned by two or three fighters. ISIL forces advanced through the posts, killing rebels who were too slow to flee.[11]

On 22 February, ISIL forces captured three more areas, including a former Army base.[1] By this point, since the start of the offensive, 132 people had been killed in the fighting, mostly combatants.[14][9] The dead included some captured rebels that were beheaded.[11] Three days later, ISIL seized two more villages.[15] With this advance, ISIL had almost doubled the size of its territory in the area since the start of the offensive.[16]

On 27 February, the rebels recaptured two villages and it was initially reported they also retook[5] the hilltop of Tal Al-Jamou. However, the rebel attack on the ISIL-held hill was repelled[17] following an ISIL ambush of rebel forces[10] that left 31 rebel fighters dead.[18]

Aftermath[edit]

At the end of February 2017, rebels from 16 different FSA-affiliated factions formed the Nawa Operations Room in an attempt to quell the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army’s advances.[19][20] On 7 March, a new rebel attack which attempted to recapture two villages from ISIL was reportedly repelled, with ISIL's Amaq News Agency reporting 19 rebel fighters were killed.[21] On 19 March, according to ISIS, Southern Front and Tahrir al-Sham tried to storm the two villages again but their attack failed with Jaysh Khaled bin Walid remaining in control of the villages.[22]

On 15 April, another rebel assault was reportedly thwarted by Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid between the towns of Tasil and Tafas, killing 17 rebel fighters and injuring 30 more.[23] Fighting continued into 17 April, with rebels being ambushed and, according to ISIS' Amaq News Agency, sustaining heavy casualties with 25 being killed and 27 injured.[24]

On 8 May, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army repelled a fierce Southern Front assault which included heavy weaponry and tanks, which resulted in 17 Southern Front fighters being killed and 15 more injured.[25] On 15 May, Jaysh Khalid Ibn al-Walid fended off another offensive by Southern Front, apparently resulting in several of Southern Front fighters' decapitation, according to images circulated by ISIL.[26]

On 11 June, fighting erupted between factions of Southern Front amid fears of defections to the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army in towns of Inkhil and Maaraba and the Nasib Border Crossing. Syrian military sources reported that around 200 Southern Front fighters defected to the ISIL-aligned group during last year.[27] 15 June saw yet another attempt to break through defense lines of Jaysh Khalid Ibn al-Walid by the Southern Front via Adwan hill and yet again the attempt was foiled, resulting in two Southern Front militants being killed, according to local ISIL media.[28]

On 7 September, ISIL-aligned fighters of Saifullah al-Maslul stormed al-Abdali and al-Majahid, resulting in the immediate capture of both.[29] However, Southern Front regrouped and recaptured the villages before dawn of 8 September at the expense of 6 of their militants killed and 1 captured by the ISIL-linked group.[30]

In the early hours of 18 April 2018, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army launched another offensive against rebels in Saham al-Jawlan and other villages in the area. After a day of fighting, the rebels recaptured the villages lost in the attack, and more than 40 fighters on both sides were killed.[31]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Tomson, Chris (22 February 2017). "Islamic State militants capture three new sites in western Daraa". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  2. ^ Tomson, Chris (20 February 2017). "Massive rebel collapse in Daraa as ISIS sweeps through several towns". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  3. ^ "مستجدات حوض اليرموك , تقدم لداعش وقتلى بصفوف الثوار - وكالة خطوة الإخبارية". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  4. ^ "تقدم جديد لداعش في حوض اليرموك، وسط معارك كر وفر - وكالة خطوة الإخبارية". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b تقدم للفصائل في معارك ريف درعا الغربي مع جيش خالد بن الوليد
  6. ^ "Is Islamic State coming to Israel?". The Economist. 20 January 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  7. ^ "The Islamic State in Southern Syria" (PDF). Carter Center. 15 May 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  8. ^ Tomson, Chris (5 March 2017). "Tides turn in Daraa as the Syrian Army begins counter-offensive in provincial capital". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Casualties rise with the continuation of the bloody fight in the western countryside of Daraa, killing more than 130 persons
  10. ^ a b "أكثر من ثلاثين قتيلًا في اشتباكات و إعدامات ميدانية على تل الجموع". 28 February 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  11. ^ a b c "How ISIL tricked Syria's rebels into self-betrayal and defeat - The National". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Islamic State affiliate's surprise offensive pays off as rebels distracted in Daraa city". Syria:direct. 20 February 2017.
  13. ^ Tomson, Chris (20 February 2017). "Massive rebel collapse in Daraa as ISIS sweeps through several towns".
  14. ^ "130 killed in three days of Syria clashes: Monitor - Region - World - Ahram Online".
  15. ^ "The Inside Source on Twitter". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  16. ^ Charkatli, Izat (25 February 2017). "Exclusive: Syrian Army prepares to capture the entirety of Dara'a". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  17. ^ Fadel, Leith (28 February 2017). "[Graphic 18+] Rebel offensive goes horribly wrong in southwest Daraa". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  18. ^ Charkatli, Izat (1 March 2017). "Rebels set up new operations room to counter ISIS expansion in southern Syria". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  19. ^ Charkatli, Izat (1 March 2017). "Rebels set up new operations room to counter ISIS expansion in southern Syria". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  20. ^ غرفة عمليات مشتركة لمواجهة تنظيم "الدولة" بدرعا, Enab Baladi 28 February 2017
  21. ^ Antonopoulos, Paul (7 March 2017). "A score of opposition fighters killed by ISIS in failed Daraa offensive". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  22. ^ Fadel, Leith (19 March 2017). "Rebel offensive in west Daraa fails as ISIL regains initiative". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  23. ^ Tomson, Chris (15 April 2017). "Islamic State takes deadly toll on rebel forces as western Daraa offensive flops". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  24. ^ Tomson, Chris (17 April 2017). "Syrian rebels suffer over 50 casualties amid clashes with ISIS in rural Daraa". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  25. ^ Tomson, Chris (9 May 2017). "ISIS transforms rural Daraa to killing zone as rebel offensive fails miserably (video, photos)". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  26. ^ Tomson, Chris (16 May 2017). "Graphic pictures: ISIS chops off heads as rebel offensive in rural Daraa goes horribly wrong". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  27. ^ "Rebel infighting erupts across multiple rearguard areas in rural Daraa". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 12 June 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  28. ^ "In pictures: ISIS foils FSA attack in southwest Daraa countryside". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  29. ^ "ISIS kills, captures 7 rebels during night assault in southwest Daraa". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 8 September 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  30. ^ "FSA rebels recapture two villages from ISIS in south Daraa". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 8 September 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  31. ^ "More than 40 fighters were killed during hours of violent clashes in Yarmouk Basin west of Daraa and the factions recover what they lost for Jaysh Khaled Ibn Al-Waleed". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 19 April 2018.


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