The security settlement campaign led by the regime forces over the past two months, in the cities and villages of the Daraa governorate, came to an end with the announcement of the opening of a settlement center in the governorate. The center targets those who were unable to “settle” their security situation.
The regime withdrew part of its security forces, which included security checkpoints that had remained in the area for more than 10 years, as part of what regime forces called “the return to normal life in Daraa”.
Yet, the focus of the observers was on the city of Bosra al-Sham, which is the headquarters of the Russian-backed Eighth Brigade in Daraa, as it was excluded from the settlements by the regime. This kept the fate of the Eighth Brigade and its commander, Ahmed al-Awda, unknown, in light of the escalating talk about dissolving the brigade, or linking it to the military security of the Syrian regime forces, according to local media outlets.
Speaking to Enab Baladi, a former leader of the opposition factions said that the responsibility for seizing weapons in Bosra lies with the Eighth Brigade, the only military force overseeing and regulating the region.
The commander, whose name was not disclosed for security reasons, added that the leadership of the brigade responded to the “security committee” and withdrew its weapons from its affiliated groups, within the framework of its organization. This made it easier for the regime to control weapons.
The leader pointed out that the regime considers the brigade part of the state, therefore, it did not make any “compromise” to the stronghold of its leadership.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, a commander of the Eighth Brigade said that the brigade’s command is capable of controlling the weapon, but he did not disclose additional information regarding the mechanism for the implementation of this operation, or the party that will oversee the brigade’s operation.
Regime forces had opened a settlement center in September 2020 aiming to “settle” the status of members affiliated with the brigade in the city of Bosra al-Sham. It lasted for two consecutive days, through which the names of hundreds of members of the brigade were removed from the wanted list of the security authorities. In addition, they were given the freedom of movement without being prosecuted.
What’s the Eighth Brigade?
The Eighth Brigade was formed on the ruins of the Shabab al-Sunna faction, one of the factions of the “Southern Front” opposing the regime in southern Syria. The brigade is led by Ahmed al-Awda, and was one of the most important organized fighting factions, being the only faction located in the city of Bosra al-Sham.
With the Russian-sponsored regime’s settlements coming into force in 2018, al-Awda maintained his opposition military organization. This pushed him to join the Fifth Corps, which Russia established in 2016 as an auxiliary force to the regime army.
Awda turned against al-Nusra Front and the al-Muthanna Islamic Movement after they participated in the removal of regime forces from his hometown of Bosra al-Sham, in March 2015.
Awda was then able to organize public facilities and services in the city and set up police and traffic police.
During the years of settlement, the faction’s role emerged as separation forces that managed to break up a clash in March 2020 between regime forces and former opposition fighters. The brigade oversaw the deportation of fighters to northern Syria on Russian orders.
The brigade was also able to halt a clash between former opposition and regime fighters in the same period of time when regime forces tried to advance towards the Masaken Jalin checkpoint and retrieve the bodies of their dead who fell during the confrontations at that time.
The Fifth Corps: Supervisor of Settlements
The Fifth Corps played the role of mediator and supervisor of settlements in various areas of Daraa.
Last March, regime forces attacked the northern countryside of al-Sanamayn in the Daraa countryside, using tanks and artillery for the first time since the settlement agreement in the southern region in July 2018 and then clashed with fighters who rejected the settlement and preferred to remain in Daraa.
Regime forces imposed a siege on the western neighborhoods of the city, until the Eighth Brigade, led by al-Awda, intervened, resolved the conflict, and imposed a truce. This ended with the deportation of fighters towards northern Syria, and the settlement of the conditions of those wishing to remain, on condition that the weapons be handed over.
At that time, the corps’s role was not limited to mediation, but on March 18, 2020, the bodies of regime forces were withdrawn after their checkpoint was attacked at the Masaken Jalin area.
This coincided with its supervision of the settlement imposition in the town of Nahta, which ended with the delivery of 20 weapons in exchange for the release of regime detainees, and the settlement of the young men’s situation from the town.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.