Syria Regime Warns Daraa Rebels with Air-Dropped Leaflets

W460

Syrian aircraft on Friday dropped leaflets on the southern province of Daraa, urging the rebels who control most of it to lay down their weapons or face an offensive.

Residents told AFP that several different leaflets were scattered across the province, which has borders with Israel and Jordan and is expected to be among the next targets in the resurgent regime's reconquest.

One of them, seen by a journalist contributing to AFP in the city of Daraa, includes a picture showing lined up bodies, presumably of anti-government fighters.

"This is the inevitable fate of anyone who insists on carrying arms," reads the leaflet.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another leaflet announces "the arrival of the Syrian Arab army's soldiers".

The Britain-based war monitor also said that the government had sent reinforcements towards the southern province following the completion earlier this week of operations to secure Damascus.

Syrian regime and allied forces on Monday retook the Yarmuk area in southern Damascus, giving President Bashar al-Assad full control of the capital and its surroundings for the first time since 2012.

"These forces are now stationed on the edges of Daraa province," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

"The goal is a broad offensive, should the rebels reject a negotiated pullout as was the case in Eastern Ghouta," he said.

Russian-backed Syrian forces launched a major operation in February against Eastern Ghouta, a sprawling semi-rural rebel pocket east of the capital.

A daily deluge of air strikes and shelling left at least 1,700 people dead, according to the Observatory, and eventually forced the rebels into accepting a transfer to the northern province of Idlib.

Daraa's location makes any broad operation there very sensitive, with Israel suspecting Damascus' Iranian allies of seeking to establish a military footprint closer to its borders.

Abdel Raman said the planned Syria offensive so far only included regular Syrian forces, supported by the Russian military but not by Iranian forces nor the Tehran-backed Lebanese Hizbullah group.

Government and allied forces control about 30 percent of Daraa, the rest of which is held by various factions, including a small contingent of fighters from the Islamic State jihadist group.

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