In July, the Islamist rebels of the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) “Liwaa Al-Yarmouk” and the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” launched a large-scale offensive to capture the strategic Tha’lah Military Airport that is located just 15km from the provincial capital of the Al-Sweida Governorate.
The Free Syrian Army’s objective was to get the predominately Durzi population to turn on the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and help them seize Sweida City with their blessing; however, they underestimated the resiliency and bravery of the Syrian Druzs.
Jabal Al-‘Arab (Sweida) is home to some of Syria’s most prominent warriors: from the famous leader of the Syrian Rebellion of 1925 – Sultan Basha Al-‘Atrash – to the present-day commander of the Syrian Arab Army’s 104th Airborne Brigade of the Republican Guard – Major General Issam Zahreddine; this province has blessed Syria with some of its best fighters.
Disregarding Syrian history, the Islamist rebels foolishly chose to press into Al-Sweida after the Durzi Sheikhs reaffirmed their loyalty to the Syrian Arab Army; this proved to be a fatal mistake that would later penalize the Free Syrian Army.
For three weeks, the Islamist rebels tried to enter the Tha’lah Military Airport; unfortunately for them, each attempt failed to achieve their military objective.
Finally, they decided to withdraw from Tal Sheikh Hussein on the Dara’a-Sweida border and seek refuge in the nearby Battalion 52 base and the village of Al-Hirak.
However, what left the Islamist rebels most perturbed was the absence of the Syrian Arab Army during the battle of Tha’lah Military Airbase – where did the 4,500 soldiers from the SAA go?
The answer was simple: Dara’a.
The people of Sweida relieved the army and took up arms to defend their province; this allowed for the Syrian Arab Army’s Central Command to redeploy their soldiers to the Dara’a Governorate in order to combat the large-scale offensive at the provincial capital.
The FSA’s Southern Front Brigades (54 factions) repeatedly tried to capture Dara’a City from every flank; however, the result was heavy casualties and a massive withdrawal.
Now, the Syrian Arab Army’s 5th Armored Division is striking back with multiple offensives inside the Dara’a Governorate.
In a matter of weeks, the SAA’s 5th Division reached the strategic city of Sheikh Miskeen and cleared the entire Al-Manishiyah District of Dara’a City, all the while, the Islamist rebels struggle to maintain their positions.
The Syrian Arab Army can attribute their success in Dara’a to the brave civilians of Al-Sweida, who took up arms to defend their land against the Islamist rebels that threatened their beloved province.