The Syrian rebels continued their offensive on regime-held areas in Daraa and achieved advancements while the Russian jets conducted deadly airstrikes to hinder the rebels’ operations.
Rebel groups on Sunday stormed the heavily-guarded Manshiya district in a battle dubbed “Death rather than Humiliation” sending two car bombs while saying their campaign sought to obstruct any army attempts to capture a strategic border crossing with Jordan.
The fighting also spread across other parts of the city as rebels fired mortars on government-controlled parts of the city. Ground-to-ground missiles were also deployed from army barracks to pound rebel held quarters of the city, residents said.
The battles inside the city are the most intense since an alliance of mainstream rebels, known as “The Southern Front” who are backed by Western and Arab foes of President Bashar al-Assad launched an unsuccessful large scale military campaign to capture the whole city in 2015.
The Syrian army has so far failed to recapture the border crossing, a once thriving passenger and commercial gateway with Jordan, despite repeated efforts.
The district’s capture would thwart an army goal of trying to secure a border crossing with Jordan that would allow the army to open a direct commercial route all the way to Damascus.
“There is not a single day that passes without the regime trying to make advances,” Salamah Aba Zaid, a resident in Deraa said.
“This major operation launched by opposition fighters came as a reaction to Assad terrorists’ nonstop attempts of reaching the Naseeb border crossing. This border crossing is considered the vital supply route to Assad regime in Damascus,” the head of the media office in the rebels’ military room Abo Shima’ told Orient Net.
“We are independent. We do not receive orders from regional powers or states. Our offensive will continue until it achieves its goals,” Abo Shima added.
However, the Russian jets pounded rebel-held areas of the Syrian city of Deraa on Tuesday for the second day.
A rebel source said there were at least 30 Russian sorties on Tuesday, thwarting further rebel gains in the heavily defended enclave that had allowed them so far to secure significant parts of the Manshiya.
“When the regime began to lose control of some areas … the Russian jets began their operations,” said Ibrahim Abdullah, a senior rebel commander.
At least half of the southern province is in the hands of Free Syrian Army rebels but groups affiliated with the Islamic State have a foothold in an area to the west of Deraa in the Wadi Yarmouk area near the Golan Heights.
Aid workers said jets hit a Western-funded field hospital in Deraa and raids killed at least seven members of one family in the border area, where many residents fled in the early days of the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.