Rebels are saying that the regime’s week-long counter-offensive south of Damascus is President Assad’s “last-breath” attempt to break the opposition.

The label may be over-dramatic, but the importance of the regime attempt — apparently reliant on Hezbollah, Iranian fighters, and other foreign militiamen — has only grown as casualties have mounted. And, although some territory may have been taken, the outcome is at best inconclusive for Damascus.

A media blackout by the rebels limited any news on Friday of developments along the 20-km (12-mile) front. A best guess is that the regime has claimed Danaji. It has retaken Deir Addas, but that is not under control, with fighting nearby. Deir Makir and Habbiriah are also being contested, but rebels appear to have held Kafr Nasij and other villages.

Even the limited advances may prove Pyrrhic. Rebels claims that the regime force, including Hezbollah and Iran Special Forces, have taken heavy casualties. On Friday alone, 110 fighters were killed, according to the Free Syrian Army, adding to a death toll of “hundreds” during the week. The FSA also claimed eight tanks were destroyed and four captured.

An opposition source says that even if the regime captured towns and villages, its forces would be far from secure: “Rebels carry out guerrilla warfare and don’t repeat early errors like trying to hold ground at all costs. Foreign militias can’t do that — they have to attempt to hold any gains.”

Fighting near Deir Addas:

To the west in Quneitra Province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the regime’s counter-province has been even more restricted in its advance. State media proclaimed on Friday that the village of Himrit had been taken, but that would be an isolated victory. So far, rebels appear to have held firm, despite the influx of Hezbollah and Iranian fighters — and evidence that those groups planned the offensive.

Shrewd observers, including among EA’s readers, have commented that the regime can at least claim to have checked the months-long progress of insurgents across Quneitra and Daraa Provinces in the south. The counter-offensive will have put off any rebel plan for an assault on the regime’s “last line” of fortifications to the south of Damascus.

However, if there is no success beyond this, the claim could be grasping at straws. While seeking to show the vulnerability of the capital, the opposition has not seen a challenge to the southern ring — with at least three armored divisions standing guard — as an imminent objective. Instead, the objective has been to start a slow squeeze on the regime from the south, even as Assad’s forces try to bomb resistance out of existence to the north and east of Damascus.

Kafranbel Protests Remembers 3 Killed in North Carolina, Criticizes “Don Quixote” UN Envoy

The latest protest from Kafranbel in northwest Syria remembers three young Muslims murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this week — Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha:

The rally also has a message for UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, who shifted position this week and said President Assad — far from stepping away for a transitional government — must be part of any political resolution:


State Media: Car Bomb Kills 5 in Damascus Province

State news agency SANA says five people were killed, including two children, and more than 25 wounded on Friday by a car bomb in the town Harneh al-Gharbiye in Damascus Province.

The car bomb was detonated near a mosque, causing “massive damage” to nearby houses.

Friday Protests Denounce Regime’s Mass Killing in Douma

Local protests across Idlib Province in northwest Syria on Friday denounced the regime’s bombing that has killed hundreds of civilians in the Damascus suburb of Douma over the last 10 days:

See Syria Op-Ed: How the Assad Regime Wins the Propaganda War as It Kills Civilians