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The situation in Syria’s southern region appears to be slowly spinning out of control. As of February 21, several serious security incidents and attacks were reported in the governorate of Daraa.
On February 18, an unidentified gunman was killed on the Daraa-Damascus highway when an improvised explosive device (IED) he was trying to plant prematurely exploded.
On February 19, Jamal Sharaf, a former commander of the Free Syrian Army, was shot and killed by two unidentified gunmen in the town of Nawa in the western countryside of Daraa.
Sharaf, also known as Abu Zain, was the commander of the FSA’s Ahl al-‘Azm group. In 2018, he joined the reconciliation process in Daraa.
On the same day, unidentified gunmen shot and killed two soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army in the town of al-Sheikh Maskin in the northern countryside of Daraa.
Furthermore, the SAA’s engineer units uncovered and dismantled two IEDs which were planted along the Daraa-Damascus highway. A third IED was found in the town of al-Ghariyah al-Sharqiyah, which is located a few kilometers to the east of the highway.
On February 20, two former FSA commanders, Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Masalmah and Abu Jazwan Abu Nabout, survived an assassination attempt with an IED in Daraa city.
Both al-Masalmah and Abu Nabout joined the 2018 Daraa reconciliation process. However, they didn’t enlist in any pro-government formations.
The recent developments highlight the bad security situation in Daraa. The SAA and other government forces have been making a substantial effort to secure the governorate. Nevertheless, more needs to be done.
In Syria’s central region, the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) continue their combat operations against ISIS cells.
On February 19, more than 70 Russian airstrikes targeted hideouts of ISIS in the outskirts of the town of al-Sukhnah in the eastern Homs countryside, the Hama-Aleppo-Raqqa triangle and in the western desert of Deir Ezzor.
The intense airstrikes didn’t deter ISIS terrorists, who attacked a post of the SAA in the western desert of Deir Ezzor on February 20. Two soldiers were reportedly killed in the attack. The VKS responded with a wave of airstrikes that targeted the Hama-Aleppo-Raqqa triangle and the al-Bishri mount, which lays along the border between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.
The ISIS insurgency in central Syria will not likely end anytime soon. Nevertheless, the situation in the region appears to be slowly improving.
Meanwhile, the US-led coalition continues to expand its military presence in Syria’s northeastern region.
On February 18, the coalition announced that it had deployed additional M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) in the region. The coalition said that the decision to deploy the vehicles was motivated by the January 20 ISIS attack on al-Hasakah prison.
On the same day, the US-led coalition and its proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), held live-fire drills near the Abu Khashab road in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor. ISIS’s attack on al-Hasakah prison was also used to justify the drills.
On the Syrian side, the SAA intercepted two US-led coalition convoys near the towns of Tell al-Dahab in the northern al-Hasakah countryside and al-Mujabirah in the eastern countryside of the governorate on February 19.
On February 20, the SAA intercepted a third convoy of the coalition near the town of Shamiran in the northern al-Hasakah countryside.
These confrontations appear to be meant to restrict the movement of the US-led coalition in the northeastern region.
In Syria’s northwestern region, known as Greater Idlib, the situation has been calm to some extent. Very few ceasefire violations were reported as of February 21. None of them resulted in any casualties. The situation in the region will not likely remain this clam for long.
Overall, the bad security situation in the southern region remains the most pressing issue facing Syria now. The unrest in the southern region could soon spread to other parts of the country.