Syria army begins assault on Daraa city: state media

Damascus: Syria’s army is launching its assault on rebel districts of the flashpoint southern city of Daraa, state media said on Tuesday, following a week of escalating operations in the countryside.

Russian-backed Syrian troops have been ramping up their bombardment and ground operations against rebels during the past week in eastern parts of Daraa province.

On Tuesday, state media said the army was launching an “operation” on the city itself.

“Syria’s army is carrying out targeted air strikes against terrorist positions and fortifications in Daraa,” state television reported.

Government news agency SANA said the strikes were a prelude “before military units advance into the southeastern quarter of the city.”

Rebel groups mainly hold the southern half of the city while loyalists control the north.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said also reported bombing and clashes in the city on Tuesday.

“Russian and Syrian air strikes, as well as barrel bombs, targeted rebel areas in Daraa city,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The monitor said it was the first ground operation inside the city since the escalation began.

Syria’s army is pursuing a divide-and-conquer strategy against rebels in the south, seeking to chop up the horseshoe-shaped territory that the opposition holds.

“The regime is seeking to take control of a military base south of the city, which will allow it to cut the route between Daraa city and the Jordanian border, as well as further divide the rebel areas,” said Abdel Rahman.