Will Russia back US and hold back any Assad offensive?



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The US Government has warned the Assad regime against an offensive to retake opposition territory in southern Syria, near the Jordanian and Israeli borders.

Responding to reports from pro-Assad outlets of deployments for an assault on areas such as Dara’a Province, where the 2011 uprising began, the State Department said the US will take “firm and appropriate measures” over any violation of a de-escalation zone, declared by Washington and Russia last July.

Following the regime’s conquest of East Ghouta near Damascus and the capture of a pocket in northern Homs Province last month, much of Dara’a and Quneitra Provinces is one of two large areas still controlled by the opposition. The other is in the northwest — almost all of Idlib Province, and parts of neighboring northern Hama and western Aleppo Provinces.

Turkey is protecting the northwestern area, and Russia — for now — is joining Ankara in observation posts to deter any ground offensive. That has left the south as the likely target of a pro-Assad advance, but the involvement of Iranian-supported militia and Hezbollah could bring Israeli intervention.

See An Impending War Between Israel and Iran in Syria?

Pro-Assad blogs have been cheering the move of some of the regime’s top units towards Dara’a. State media have reported that planes have dropped leaflets demanding that rebels disarm.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a Friday statement, “As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations.”

She focused on Moscow with the call, “Russia is duly responsible as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to use its diplomatic and military advantage over the Assad regime to stop attacks and compel the Assad regime to cease further military offensives.”

Gunmen Kill 5 White Helmets in Aleppo Province

Gunmen have killed five White Helmets rescuers and injured two others in southern Aleppo Province.

The attackers struck the al-Hader center during the iftar dinner breaking the Ramadan fast on Friday. Four men were slain immediately, and the fifth died on Saturday morning.

Armed men have periodically targeted White Helmets centers. Seven volunteers were killed in Sarmin in Idlib Province last August.