Free Syrian Army launches a large scale offensive to liberate the strategic Yarmouk Basin from ISIS

The strategic region of the Yarmouk basin has been a site of fighting throughout the civil war in Syria. Its location within Syria border Jordan and the Golan Heights, making it a highly prized area in terms of military strategy.

Some of the area within the governorate of Daraa and Quneitra in the Yarmouk basin has been occupied by the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army. This group was formed from a merger in mid-2016 between two ISIS-affiliated groups, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade and Jaysh al-Jihad. They consist of just over 1,000 militants and their ideology is an extension of that of ISIS, in terms of its severely strict interpretation of Sharia and subject civilians to executions and beheadings. Reports coming out of the area shed light on the intolerable conditions in which civilians in these areas are living.

The group’s name is in reference to Khalid Ibn al-Walid, the leader of Muslim Armies that took part in the Batlle of Yarmouk in 636 CE, which inflicted a heavy defeat on the Byzantine Army and led to the Muslim conquest of the Levant.

Their main opponents in the Yarmouk basin is the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group, formed of defectors from the regime’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA). Skirmishes between the FSA and the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army have been commonplace throughout this year. The latter as able to make gains in a series of assaults on the Southern Front (allegedly an offshoot of the FSA in southern Syria) February. Syrian rebel counteroffensives have since largely been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army continues to be surrounded by rebel forces in the Yarmouk Basin.

The Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army currently holds a pocket of land in the south-western corner of Syria, right on the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied area of the Golan Heights. The rebel forces have besieged the group from the north, east, and south. Government forces control a strip of land leading from Daraa city to Damascus, as well as most of as-Suwayda to the east of Daraa.

Image: Aljazeera