Bashar Assad’s troops and his allies, the Iran-backed Lebanese Hizballah, are notorious for their barbaric cruelty to the populations they conquer. But even by their own appalling standards, the massacre they wreaked against the 100,000 citizens of the southern Syrian town of Daraa this week must stand out as a milestone from hell.
Posted in the town, just one kilometer from the Jordanian border, were 3,000 anti-Assad rebels, some of whom joined the Free Syrian Army to be trained and armed by the United States and Jordan. The offensive the Syrian government army and Hizballah launched against their positions on Sunday, June 11, left 140 dead and hundreds injured in its first hours.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that it started with dozens of Syrian air force helicopters dropping 150 explosive barrels on those positions, while Syrian bomber-fighter planes conducted at least 25 sorties against rebel rooftop positions atop the highest buildings, and Syrian artillery fired off some 120 ground-to-ground missiles against various key points in the town of Daraa.
Syrian and Hizballah forces advanced into the town under this hellish blitz.
Our sources report that the spearhead consisted entirely of Hizballah’s Al Qaim Brigade, followed by units of the Syrian army’s elite 4th armored Division, armed with advanced Russian-made T-90 tanks. The commander of the offensive was Col. Ghayath Galla.
(On June 6, DEBKAfile disclosed in an exclusive report that the 4th Division’s commander, Bashar Assad’s younger brother, Gen. Maher Assad, and his officers were sighted inspecting the terrain around Daraa in advance of the offensive.)
According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, any Syrian rebels surviving the initial onslaught on the town had no choice but to fall back. They could only find sanctuary in two places – Jordan, to the south, or the Al-Tanf Syrian-Iraqi border crossing to the east, which is held by US and Jordanian special forces. Those forces did not intervene in the Daraa debacle.
After capturing Daraa, the next victim of a Syrian-Hizballah massacre is most probably Quneitra, which lies less than 9km from the Israeli border. Its capture would bring every last Syrian town bordering Jordan and Israel under their domination.