Russia has suspended the salaries of former rebels in the southern Syrian governorate of Daraa because they refused to step up their efforts against ISIS in the country’s central region, Syrian sources revealed on May 30.
Daraa’s former rebels joined the fight against ISIS in central Syria in February under the banner of the 8th Brigade, a unit of the army’s 5th Corps that was established especially for them following the 2018 reconciliation agreement in southern Syria.
According to the Horan Free League, Russia suspended the salaries of all 8th Brigade fighters because their command refused to send more reinforcements to the central region.
“The Brigade commander Ahmed al-Awda refused the request of the Russian forces to establish a camp and set points for them in the desert, after completing a combing operation against ISIS,” a source in the Brigade told the local news blog.
In April, the 8th Brigade faced a major backlash from Syrian opposition supporters after sending reinforcements to the central region. Many in the opposition don’t see the battle against ISIS as theirs.
Russia has been paying the salaries of 8th Brigade fighters since its establishment in order to support the reconciliation process in southern Syria.
The brigade fighters fought ISIS before. In 2018, they neutralized the ISIS-affiliated Khalid ibn al-Walid Army in western Daraa. Later in the same year, they helped drive ISIS cells out from northern al-Suwayda.
The 8th Brigade’s decision to quite the fight against ISIS in central Syria was likely the result of pressure by radical opposition supports, who do not see any threat in ISIS. The Russian move will likely force the brigade’s commander to reconsider his decision.
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