The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is preparing to launch a military operation against ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) south of the Syrian capital, Damascus, the pro-government blog al-Masdar reported on December 27.
According to al-Masdar, the elite 42nd Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division will be tasked with the operation. The source added that the 42nd brigade will deploy its units south of Damascus after finishing its operations in the western Ghouta region in the upcoming days.
The 42nd Brigade is commanded by Colonel Ghaith Dallah, and it’s well-known for clearing wide areas around Damascus from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) including Khan Alsheh, Qaboun and Barda valley in 2016 and 2017.
Currently, ISIS controls the Yarmouk refugee camp south of Damascus. HTS and some Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups control the districts of Tadamon, Aqraba, Beit Sahm, Yalda and Babila east and west of the camp.
On January 6, a deal was reached to evacuate HTS fighters from the towns of Aqraba, Beit Sahm, Yalda and Babila south of Damascus. However, the deal failed because HTS foreign fighters had refused to leave the towns.
The SAA will likely win the battle not only because it got the upper hand in military terms, but also because HTS and ISIS have been fighting each other for months in the Yarmouk camp.