While Syrian war reporting focused over the weekend on the battles around Aleppo and along the Turkish border in the north, Russia since Saturday, Feb. 20 has ramped up its air bombardment of southern cities and towns, especially Daraa and Nawa. Thousands of fleeing rebels with their families and other civilians have meanwhile been turned away from the locked Jordanian border and are heading towards the Golan opposite the Israeli border.
The heaviest Russian air strikes seen hitherto in Syria have two strategic goals.
1. To retake the key southern town of Daraa from rebel hands and restore it to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s full control.
2. To crush rebel resistance in the South and force them to accept surrender, collapse or escape in the direction of the Jordanian or Israeli borders.
The intense Russian sorties are opening the door to Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah forces to move into the South and reach the Israeli borders. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent Dr. Dore Gold to Moscow last week as his special emissary to explain how this affected Israel’s security. But he was unable to persuade the Russians to scale down their attacks in this sensitive border region.
Those attacks have a third goal, which is to encircle the Jebel Druze region with a “shield of fire” as protection for this ethnic minority of 750,000, most which inhabit mountain villages.
This unusual operation, the first of its kind in the Syrian war, has three objectives:
A. To shield the Druzes villages against ISIS attack from the east, namely Deir az-Zour.
B. To shut the door against fleeing rebels seeking sanctuary in the Druze enclave.
C. To show other Syrian minorities, especially the Kurds in the north, the great advantage of allying themselves with Moscow. Word of Russian protection of the Druzes has undoubtedly spread to Syria’s other minorities.
As for the rebels and refugees, Jordanian troops moved into the border crossings evacuated by Syrian rebels and closed the last crossing at Ramtha.
The exodus from southern Syria is now heading towards the Golan on Israel’s doorstep.
Israel has imposed a media blackout on this development. However, debkafile’s sources warn that it will soon be impossible to keep it dark. Within a few days, many thousands of Syrian refugees will be massing at Israel’s Ein Zivan gate opposite Quneitra. Like Turkey and Jordan, Israel will have to supply large numbers of distressed Syrian refugees with tents, food, water and medicines.