ISTANBUL — The Syrian army along with the pro-government armed groups have been deploying hundreds of troops near its border with Iraq and Jordan, according to rebel sources. Meanwhile US-backed rebels also began their advances toward the same area.
Syrian troops and Iranian-backed fighters have been deploying to Sabaa Biyar, a sparsely-populated southern town in a desert area, about 147 kilometres from Damascus, and equidistant to the Jordanian, Iraqi and Lebanese borders, after having liberated it from Islamic State (IS) militants last week.
The deployment is part of the effort to recapture former IS-held areas by government forces, thereby preventing it from being controlled by US-backed rebels, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), rebel commanders told Reuters on Monday.
"They have sent big reinforcements from artillery, to tanks and armoured vehicles," Major Issam Al Reis, the spokesperson for FSA's Southern Front group, told Reuters. The Syrian army has not confirmed the deployment.
Recently, the US-backed FSA has also been advancing in Sabaa Biyar, which is located near the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway.
"The regime's plan is to reach the Iraqi-Syrian border and cut the road on our advance further towards the north east against [IS’] strongholds there after they lost territory in the Badia," Reis said.
The Syrian army could potentially come close to the Tanf base, where US troops are operating and training the FSA rebels, rebels told Reuters.
Currently, the participants of the conflict are meeting in Geneva for the sixth round of UN-backed peace talks.
The recent agreement pertaining to the establishment of safe-zones which was signed by the Syrian government and rebels during the latest Astana peace talks earlier in May has effectively eliminated battles in Idlib, Homs, Deraa and Aleppo.