Insurgents won a sudden and notable victory on Sunday, capturing the town of Nawa, south of Damascus near the main highway to the Jordanian border.
The Free Syrian Army, supported by elements of Jabhat al-Nusra, overran regime posts near the town. Syrian troops fled, leaving heavy weaponry and ammunition behind.
A “military source” told State news agency SANA, “Units of the army and armed forces executed a redeployment and repositioning…to fit the nature of the upcoming fighting operations.”
Opposition fighters in front of a military security building:
Insurgents show off captured weapons and armored vehicles:
The regime considers Nawa one of the key positions in a defensive line south of the capital. Part of the town had been reclaimed by Syrian forces in an offensive in May, a few months after it was occupied by insurgents.
The victory was the second significant triumph for insurgents in a week. They also secured Sheikh Maskin, east of Nawa on the main highway from Damascus to Daraa and the Jordanian border, repelling a major regime attack that had briefly occupied parts of the town.
Opposition fighters also moved into the Tel Hamad regime base (see map):
The Syrian air force immediately launched strikes on Nawa; however, another offensive to secure the southern flank of Damascus may be difficult. The military is stretched. It has been waging campaigns against the insurgents in the areas of Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, and — in contrast to May — it now faces the threat of Islamic State offensives, especially in central Syria.
In theory, insurgents could try and turn heavy weapons to a drive towards Damascus. The positions seized this weekend have supported a tank battalion, two artillery battalions, at least two infantry battalions, and one or two anti-aircraft artillery battalions.
Assad to UN Envoy: I Will Study Plan to “Freeze” Aleppo Fighting
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura that he will study a plan to “freeze” fighting in Aleppo, divided between regime and insurgent forces since July 2012.
De Mistura is making his second visit to Syria since he was appointed peace envoy in July. On October 30, he issued an “action plan” that proposed to freeze fighting in local areas to allow aid deliveries and to lay the groundwork for peace talks.