After a year and a half long Syrian army siege, rebels of the Southern Front break through the blockade of strategically important Nawa to join with rebels trapped inside.
Nawa, population of approximately 50,000, lies 40 km north-west of Daraa, which is on the Syria/Jordan border. My Syrian contact who is close to the “Southern Front,” a loose coalition of moderate rebel groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), said that after their defeat, the Syrian army then tried to retake the city 25 times in one month before it finally gave up. He also said that for the last year, the Syrian army has not been able to retake any of the cities it has lost in the south. Strategically Nawa is very important — it is at the head of an important crossroads that leads to Daraa in the south and the Israeli border to the west. Nearby, to the east, rebels also have control of the cities Al Sheikh Maskin and Izraa, the two main highways that run up the country from the south to Damascus pass through these two cities. This has created a new strategic front, which the rebels hope to use as they attempt to push even further north toward the capital some 85 km away.
Asked if the rebels had received weapons from Jordan to aid them in breaking the siege and subsequent defense against Syrian army attempts to retake the city, he said they had been given some help from Jordan but most of the weapons came from captured Syrian army positions and bases.
One of the main challenges facing the moderate rebels of the FSA in the south is the rise of extreme Islamist groups. So far they are not a major problem but could become so in future if they have access to significant funding and weapons. In contrast, the north and east of Syria have major problems with extremist group ISIS who control large areas. There, the FSA has two fights on its hands, one with the Syrian army and the other with ISIS. The southern FSA is working hard not to let this happen. Israel is also determined not to see extremists take power in areas along its border with Syria, on occasion it has helped the FSA secure areas in order to protect its security. Jordan too, is working with moderate rebels, such as Bashar al Zoubi, leader of the Al Yarmouk division, who I have met on several occasions. Jordanian and Israeli cooperation in areas of mutual interest is due to the fear of strengthening Islamist groups becoming a major security threat to the two countries. They will do whatever is necessary to prevent that happening even if it means having to help the FSA.