(Reuters) – Syrian troops have established full control over a string of villages in the country’s southwestern province of Dara’a near Jordan in a bid to reopen the strategic Nasib border crossing.
A Syrian commander told Reuters on Friday that the government troops would soon reach Nasib border crossing in what appears to be part of a major offensive to recover the troubled southwest from the foreign-backed militants.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said that government forces had reached the Jordanian frontier in Dera’a province on Thursday for the first time since 2015.
Several witnesses near the crossing said on Friday that armored vehicles and a tank with a Russian flag were seen heading towards the Nasib border crossing.
They said they spotted a convoy on a military road heading towards the crossing which the Syrian army has been advancing towards since Thursday.
Meanwhile, Syrian media say thousands of displaced people have already returned home in the areas that were liberated by the army. The military is also reported to have confiscated a huge amount of weapons and ammunition from terrorists in the newly-liberated regions of the southwestern province.
The recapture of Dara’a is highly important because it borders the occupied Golan Heights which Israel has used to treat wounded militants that are fighting the Syrian government since 2011.The territory’s return to the Syrian government control would cut the much-reported collaboration between Israel and the militants and accordingly deal a blow to Tel Aviv’s plans to annex the Golan Heights.
Syrian army advances are also upsetting to US plans in the Arab country where it is believed to have deployed about 2,000 troops to carve out a statelet in the country’s north with the help of the Kurdish militants.
In Raqqah, it has been reported that a joint military convoy of the US and French forces had entered the northern province. Local sources reported on Thursday that the convoy – that comprised seven trucks and was believed to be carrying military equipment – had entered the town of al-Tabaqah on the western outskirts of Raqqa and headed towards the city’s military airbase.
This comes amid ongoing talks between the Kurds and the Syrian government about the handover of the Kurdish-held territories on Eastern Euphrates to the government.
Syrian media reported of the meeting between the government and the Kurdish forces that introduce themselves as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), saying that the Kurds had expressed readiness to hand over control of the Eastern Euphrates to the governments after Washington withheld its support for the Kurdish militants in the northern Syrian cities of Manbij and Afrin.
Earlier in June, Turkey and the US reached a deal that envisages the withdrawal of Washington-backed Kurdish militants from Manbij that has been a source of tension between the two NATO allies for months.
The Syrian government has given a degree of authority to the Kurdish regions to run their own affairs in face of a foreign-backed militancy. The US, however, has used the vacuum to establish a foothold in those regions with the help of the militants.
The US angered Turkey by announcing a plan for the formation of a Kurdish militant force in Syria near the Turkish border, prompting Ankara in January to launch a cross-border military operation inside Syria, code-named Operation Olive Branch, with the declared aim of eliminating the YPG militants from northern Syria, particularly the Afrin region. Turkish troops captured Afrin in March, claiming that they had killed scores of YPG militants until then.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to push its Afrin offensive against the YPG militants eastward to Manbij, where US forces are stationed, risking confrontation between the NATO allies.
However, Washington agreed to withdraw the US-backed Kurdish militia from Manbij. This clearly paved the way for Turkish troops to capture the volatile town in a move seen in line with the same US-Turkey deal which was sealed in June.
Ankara views the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), an offshoot of SDF, a terrorist organization linked to the homegrown Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which is seeking independence from Turkey through militancy for decades now.
In another development, two American soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb explosion in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr on Wednesday.
The casualties came after the bombs planted by Daesh Takfiri terrorists exploded near the village of al-Namliyeh.