Southern Front opens battle for Daraa provincial capital

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Southern Front forces began a new campaign to take the regime-held areas of the divided provincial capital of Daraa on Thursday, declaring the Daraa-Damascus highway just east of the city a “closed military area where civilians are forbidden from entering.” “The sky of Daraa has been lit up since the battle began in the city and its periphery early this morning,” Fursan al-Hourani, a correspondent with the Umayya Media Center in Daraa, told Syria Direct Thursday. “Information from the ground suggests the campaign will soon reach Khirbet al-Ghazalah [in the Daraa countryside], one of the most prominent regime fortifications,” said al-Hourani. Tens of regime forces have allegedly been killed after regime intelligence offices were targeted inside the city, including a brigadier general, according to a post on the Southern Front’s Facebook page on Thursday. State media has not acknowledged fighting inside the city, with pro-regime Damascus Now reporting that “terrorists had not advanced one meter around the city” and that the situation now was “secure and under control.” Daraa city is split between regime and opposition forces, with the regime controlling roughly 30 percent of the city.