The US warned Syria on Friday it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to cease-fire violations, saying it was concerned about reports of an impending military operation in a de-escalation zone in the country’s southwest.
Washington also cautioned Syria’s Bashar Assad against broadening the conflict.
“As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the US will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement late on Friday.
A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported on Wednesday that Syrian government forces fresh from their victory this week against a Daesh pocket in south Damascus were moving into the southern province of Daraa.
Syrian state-run media have reported that government aircraft have dropped leaflets on opposition-held areas in Daraa urging fighters to disarm.
The US warning comes weeks after a similar attack on a de-escalation zone in northeastern Syria held by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. US ground and air forces repelled the more than four-hour attack, killing perhaps as many as 300 pro-Assad militia members, many of them Russian mercenaries.
Backed by Russian warplanes, ground forces from Iran and allied militia, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have helped Assad drive opposition fighters from Syria’s biggest cities, putting him in an unassailable military position.
They have recaptured all remaining insurgent areas near Damascus in recent weeks, including the densely populated eastern Ghouta area, as well as big enclaves in central Syria.
The government is now in its strongest position since the early months of the war in 2011, although still a long way from achieving Assad’s aim of reasserting sway over all of Syria.
Anti-Assad fighters still control two large contiguous areas of territory in the northwest and southwest. Kurdish and allied Arab militia backed by the US hold the quarter of Syria east of the Euphrates.
The government’s gains have brought it to a point where any new military campaign risks putting it in conflict with foreign powers.
Pre-2011 conscripts return
Meanwhile, the regime forces have issued orders to return home for men conscripted for compulsory service in 2010, the year before war broke out, fighters and local media said on Saturday.
The decision ends the drawn-out deployment of thousands of Syrians who enlisted for the mandatory 18 months of military service in 2010, but who ended up serving for eight years because of the war.
Al-Watan, a Syrian daily close to the government, reported that the army had “issued a decision to demobilize the officers and reservists of Recruitment Class 102 as of June 1, 2018”.
The decision comes in the wake of a string of military gains around the capital Damascus and in the central province of Homs.
Mohammad, 27, has been serving for eight consecutive years after enlisting in 2010, but will finally go home next month.
Before Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011, men 18 and older had to serve between 18 months and two years in the armed forces, after which they remained part of the reserves.
But when war broke out, anyone enlisted remained deployed on active duty.