After the regime forces' recent escalation in Daraa, and its bombardment of a number of cities and towns with air raids for the first time since the announcement of the de-escalation zone agreement in southwest Syria at the start of last July, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have begun to use new weapons which may aim to send a message to opposition forces in the country’s south that they have advanced arms that could make a difference in any military operation that Assad’s forces and their militias carry out there.
Remotely piloted aircraft bombed opposition positions near the town of Abta in the central Daraa countryside. A military source in the armed opposition told Alsouria Net that this was the first time this type of aircraft had bombed positions in Daraa. An area where Free Syrian Army forces were deployed were struck with mortar shells, damaging a number of machinery.
The source added that the strike was a clear message from Assad’s forces that it possessed new technologies which could have been provided by its allies, Russia and Iran.
The military source added that the opposition's observatories had been able to identify the place where this aircraft took off – the Al-Dameer military air base east of Damascus, which is overseen by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard militia and in which there area a number of Russian advisers.
In their bombardment over the last week of districts in Daraa city, Assad's forces used locally made rockets of the Golan-2 type that carry napalm, banned internationally. They hit the Daraa districts with two rockets of this type, which led to fire breaking out in a number of civilian homes and wounding many.
Activists reported that these rockets were launched from the Al-Majabal checkpoint, east of the city of Daraa, about 4 kilometers from the Daraa districts, meaning that Assad’s forces have made changes to the old generation of these rockets which had a maximum range of about a kilometer and have added a head that carries napalm.
The regime forces' use of new weapons in the southern de-escalation zone is a clear indication of the threats sent to opposition forces in light of the ongoing threats from Russia about the approaching start of a military operation in Daraa after the end of the Ghouta assault.
The Hmeimeem air base page on Facebook said that Russian air forces would give full air support soon to start the battle in Daraa.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.