Pro-Assad Forces Up Campaign In Southwest Syria, Raising Concern Year-long Truce Is Crumbling
The Syrian army has upped its shelling of rebel-held areas in the country’s southwest, as it mobilizes along with its allies on the ground for an anticipated major campaign to re-assert military control over regions adjacent to both the Israeli and Jordanian borders. The expected offensive is raising fears that a year-long U.S.-Russia-Jordan-brokered truce that created so-called “de-escalation zones” in southwest Syria is on the verge of total collapse. This eventuality would risk a major escalation in the seven-years-long war, especially if Israel is drawn further into the conflict. The Jewish state remains concerned that Iranian-backed Shiite troops, including members of Hizbullah, are preparing to take part in the assault by camouflaging themselves as Syrian soldiers; this, despite a reported tacit agreement forged with Moscow barring these fighters from operating in the vicinity of the Israeli Golan Heights. For its part, Amman is worried that the violence could spill over into its territory and has stepped up diplomatic efforts to pressure the U.S. to enforce the existing ceasefire. Washington, meanwhile, has kept relatively mum on the developments, warning only that it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” accord.