Late on August 20, Mohamed Hilal Zatima, a former rebel commander, was killed by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). Zatima was one of more than a hundred gunmen who have been holding up in Daraa al-Balad, the southern part of Daraa city, for nearly two months now.
The former commander was reportedly killed when the army shelled a post he was manning in Tariq al-Sad district with mortars. Several other people, most likely gunmen, were also wounded in the mortar attack.
Zatima, who is also known by his nom de guerre “Abu Mohanad,” was one of the al-Tawhid Brigade’s top military commanders in Daraa city.
In mid-2018, Zatima was one of thousands of rebels who surrendered to the SAA and joined the reconciliation process. Nevertheless, in the following years, Zatima became one of the main troublemakers in Daraa al-Balad.
Last year, Zatima gained much fame among opposition supporters after threatening a Syrian security officer face to face in a gas station near Daraa city.
Zatima was the second gunmen in Daraa al-Balad to be killed by the SAA in the last ten days. On August 15, a local gunmen named Mahmoud Ali Saleh al-Qutifan was killed, also in a mortar attack.
The killing of Zatima will likely lead to more escalation in Daraa al-Balad. The SAA has been preparing for this. A day earlier, the army’s elite 4th Division deployed heavy rocket launches near Daraa city.
Local leaders in Daraa al-Balad are yet to accept a roadmap presented by Russia to end the crisis in the area. The SAA may soon launch an operation in the area to implement the demands of Syrian authorities with force.
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