Reports have circulated over the past three days of clashes in southern Syria around the town of Tafas, including machine-gun fire and fights between the Syrian regime and armed locals.
Clashes have been pretty constant since the Syrian regime regained control of the area in 2018. It has many factions, some linked to former Syrian rebels, and the complexity of the area lends itself to friction between the regime and the locals.
In addition, Iranian-backed groups try to use southern Syria for drug smuggling to Jordan and the Gulf as well as also to threaten Israel. A recent meeting between Syrian President Bashar Assad and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi specifically focused on the drug trade.
This instability leads to civilian casualties. Fighting took place near Tafas and also in the western countryside of Dara’a on Tuesday, local residents told various media outlets, and the regime has since brought in reinforcements. One report claimed that the regime was seeking to put more military checkpoints around agricultural land.
What is to come
It remains to be seen if the fighting around Tafas will rise. Because of the sensitive nature of this region – close to the Jordanian border and not far from the Golan Heights – any kind of instability can result in tensions with Jordan and also Israel. In the past, groups such as Hezbollah have sought to exploit this area to threaten Israel.