Syrian regime, allies step up attacks in Daraa city

Syrian regime, allies step up attacks in Daraa city
A Free Syrian Army fighter stands in the Manshiya neighborhood, a rebel-held part of the southern city of Daraa. (Reuters)
Updated 13 June 2017

Syrian regime, allies step up attacks in Daraa city

Syrian regime, allies step up attacks in Daraa city

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian fighters battling Daesh pushed closer to the Old City in the terrorists’ stronghold of Raqqa on Monday, a monitor said as the Syrian regime and Iran-backed militia forces escalated attacks against an opposition-held part of the southern city of Deraa.
The Kurdish and Arab fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) entered Raqqa for the first time almost a week ago, after months of battle to encircle the northern city.
In the east of the city, they hold the Al-Meshleb neighborhood, captured days after the operation inside the city began, and on Sunday they seized their first district in the west, Al-Rumaniya.
On Monday, fighting was continuing on both fronts, with the SDF advancing quickly in the eastern neighborhood of Al-Senaa, which leads to the Old City of Raqqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
“The SDF forces now control 70 percent of Al-Senaa,” next to Al-Meshleb, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. “If they take Al-Senaa it will be the most important advance in the battle for Raqqa because it brings them to the center of the city where the most important Daesh positions are,” said Abdel Rahman.
“When they have captured Al-Senaa, the real battle will begin.”
The fighting is expected to become more difficult as the SDF approaches the more densely populated center of the city.
In the west of the city, meanwhile, SDF forces were battling to enter Hatin, the neighborhood next to Al-Rumaniya, captured on Sunday. The SDF reported “fierce clashes between fighters and the terrorists” on the two fronts and said 23 Daesh members had been killed.
An SDF source said that fighters had uncovered a series of tunnels dug by Daesh members in Al-Meshleb.
An AFP correspondent inside the west of the city on Sunday said the approach was littered with mangled motorcycles and unexploded mortar rounds fired by Daesh.
Also Monday, residents said that more reinforcements from the Syrian regime’s troops, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias were being rushed to Daraa from several locations near Damascus in a possible prelude to a large-scale campaign to wrest full control of the city.
The regime’s intensive raids and bombing strikes mainly pounded the southern part of Deraa, strategically located on the border with Jordan.
Troops were using the Damascus-Daraa highway, a major supply route where well-fortified trenches on both sides of the road have made it more difficult for the opposition to mount attacks.
“The regime has brought large columns of troops from the elite 4th Armored Division, and also Hezbollah forces,” said Major Issam al Rayes, spokesman of the so-called Southern Front grouping of the Free Syrian Army.