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Syrian Army Retakes Strategic Southern Town

Syrian forces fighting on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime wrested a key southern town from rebel control on Wednesday, the latest success for the Syrian army in a counteroffensive which has seen rebels dislodged from several critical towns and cities:

Among the areas where this counteroffensive has been most intense is Daraya, south of the capital, which has been reduced to ruins on the principle that “if we can’t control it nor shall you.” To the east of Damascus, regime forces have encircled rebels in the Gouta region, relieving the immediate threat to Damascus airport, which is at one end of the critical air bridge between Syria and Iran.

As critical as these areas around Damascus is the town of Qusayr between Homs and the Lebanese border, once home to 50,000 people… For the rebels, holding Qusayr is important because it’s another way of strangling the regime’s ability to sustain itself, and it complicates Hezbollah’s access to Syria… The signs are that al-Assad is investing heavily in trying to break the rebels’ hold in key parts of south and central Syria, reversing the gains they had made in a series of hard-won victories last year.

This time the loss is likely to reverberate politically and diplomatically as well:

The fall of Khirbet Ghazaleh, situated in the Hauran Plain on the highway to Jordan, came after a Jordanian-backed Syrian opposition military council failed to supply weapons to the town’s defenders. This raised resentment among opposition fighters over what they saw as a lack of Jordanian support for their efforts to defeat Assad’s forces in the region, according to rebel commanders and activists in the area.

Analysts have long expressed concerns regarding the ability of opposition forces to hold contested territory. Syrian air assets have consistently demonstrated the ability to disloge the rebels. Opposition leaders and military analysts have emphasized that they are unlikely to achieve more than a stalemate – at best – in the absence of arms and tactics able to degrade those assets.

[Photo: Souria2011archives / Youtube]