Syrian moderates escalated the war on Friday in the southern front by intensified shelling of a major army and security area in central Deraa in a new bid to capture government-held parts of the strategic city along the border with Jordan.
Last month, the Southern Front group of Syrian moderate rebels attacked to drive remaining government forces from the city but the assault was beaten back by well entrenched government forces drawing on air power the insurgents have lacked the means to confront throughout the four-year-long war.
Like Aleppo, Daraa city is already partially under rebel control and largely surrounded by insurgent-held countryside.
Southern Front group’s spokesman Isaam al-Rayyes said the latest offensive targeted a security zone in the center of the city, which the Syrian army had turned into a fortified base.
“We are now applying a new military plan and it is bringing good results … I can describe today’s operation as paving the way for the liberation of the city”
The western-backed Southern Front of Syrian moderates, widely seen as the main rebel force in the south, also hit the Panorma gardens and a large stadium next to it both used as military barracks.
Rayyes said the Syrian moderates deployed rocket launchers, heavy artillery and anti-tank TOW missiles in the latest offensive.
A main government compound in the city also caught fire from rebel shelling.
For Syria’s Assad, Daraa is more strategically important than other areas lost recently. Were the well-organized Southern Front groups to take the city, it would hasten their advance towards Damascus, just 100 km (60 miles) to the north.
Last night, Syrian army raids on the rebel-held town of Gheiriya al-Gharbeya, east of Daraa, killed at least 13 people, mostly women and children, in stepped-up aerial bombing this week.
The more Assad kills civilians, the stronger ISIS gets.
Reuters contributed to this article.