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With Russian Backing, Syrian Regime Forces Inch Closer to Israel Border

With Russian Backing, Syrian Regime Forces Inch Closer to Israel Border

Friday, 12 February, 2021 - 07:45
A screengrab of the meeting between Syrian intelligence chief Husam Louka and Russian officers in Tafas.

Syrian regime forces entered on Thursday the city of Tafas in western Daraa in Syria’s south, bringing them closer to the border with Israel.

The move is part of a “settlement” sponsored by Russian officers deployed at the Hmeimim base in Syria. The deal was struck between the Fourth Armored Division, led by president Bashar Assad’s brother Maher, and opposition factions.

Witnesses told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that regime forces entered some neighborhoods of Tafas on Thursday in line with the Russian agreement.

A video of the meeting, held in Tafas, showed Russian officers and head of Syrian general intelligence Husam Louka. One officer urged the residents of Tafas to “cooperate with the police and state” to ensure that life returns to normal. Louka, for his part, hailed the residents for “welcoming the Syrian Arab army.”

The agreement, struck overnight on Monday, calls for allowing regime and Fourth Armored Division forces to search houses and farms in and around Tafas, starting Tuesday. The operation would be overseen by the locals to ensure that no violations are committed against civilians.

It also called for resuming work at government buildings and institutions that are affiliated with the regime and releasing 58 prisoners held in regime jails. Former opposition fighters, in turn, are required to withdraw from “government” headquarters in the region. Warplanes soon took to the air over the region in a message to the former fighters.

Separately, local sources revealed that investigations are underway with people who were arrested on suspicion of drugs smuggling.

They were detained by the Russian-backed Fifth Corps amid a spike in drugs smuggling in the southern region.

The Eighth Division of the corps announced that suspects were being interrogated over their knowledge of a smuggling network that is affiliated with members in Jordan and other countries.

The division has been cracking down on the phenomenon, uncovering drugs stored at warehouses and farms located near the border and arresting people for their possession of drugs.

In most cases, the smugglers are affiliated with security sides, such as the Fourth Armored Division and intelligence branches. The regime has been pressuring for the release of some detainees.

Preliminary investigations with the detainees revealed that the Lebanese Hezbollah party, an ally of the regime, is the main source of the drugs, said the division. The drugs are brought in from the Hezbollah-controlled al-Qalamoun region and then sent to Daraa, Damascus and Sweida.

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