World Bulletin / News Desk
The southern region near the border with Jordan and Israel is one of the areas where forces have inflicted significant defeats on Assad in the last three months, notably the capture of the Nasib border crossing withJordan on April 1.
Important due to its proximity to Damascus, the area is one of the last major footholds of mainstream rebels who have been eclipsed elsewhere in Syria by groups including ISIL and the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's Syrian arm.
The offensive is targeting a base known as "The 52nd Brigade" northeast of the city of Deraa. Previous insurgent attempts to seize it have failed.
"It is very important because it is the second biggest base the regime has (in the south)," said Saber Safar, a former army colonel whose "First Army" rebel group said it had launched the attack. He spoke to Reuters via Skype.
Syrian state TV said the army had repelled an attempt by "a terrorist group" to infiltrate a military position in the area. It said a number of the attackers had been killed and wounded, including a rebel commander. The air force was carrying out raids in the area, it added.
The opposition-affiliated Orient News TV station said the rebels had fired more than 100 missiles at the base.
Issam al-Rayyes, spokesman for the mainstream "Southern Front" alliance, said the rebel forces had destroyed two tanks. Some of the fighters had entered the base, he said. Some of the southern rebels have received backing from foreign states that want to see Assad gone, including Gulf Arab governments.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation that tracks the war, reported fierce battles between insurgent groups and the Syrian military and militias that are fighting alongside it.
Since late March, an alliance of insurgents including the Nusra Front have seized nearly all of the northwestern province of Idlib at the Turkish border. ISIL has also seized the city of Palmyra from government control.
The setbacks for Assad have prompted Western policymakers to believe a window of opportunity for a political deal may be opening in Syria.
But the defeats have also triggered renewed statements of support for Assad from Iran, whose backing has been crucial to his survival.Last Mod: 09 Haziran 2015, 14:44