On May 4, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted four airstrikes on a former Russian-Syrian intelligence base in the town of Tell al-Harrah in the northwestern Daraa countryside, according to Syrian opposition sources.
Until 2014, the Tell al-Harrah signal intelligence base used to be operated by the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Reconnaissance Directorate. The base was captured by the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) in late 2014. The Russian Aerospace Forces had bombed the base on several occasions since 2015.
Only hours before the Russian airstrikes, three FSA groups, known as the 1st Infantry Brigade, the 2nd Infantry Brigade and the 3rd Infantry Brigade, announced in an official statement that they had merged to form a new armed group named the Ahrar Tell al-Harrah Brigade.
According to the statement, the new armed group will be stationed in Tell al-Harrah and will work against the SAA and Russia. This led many local observers to believe that the Russian airstrikes were an immediate response to the group’s threats.
During the last two months, several Syrian opposition news outlets reported that the FSA and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) are preparing to launch an attack against the SAA in Daraa governorate. Such an act will be a violation of the Russian-US-backed ceasefire in southern Syria, which was reached in late 2017.