US Warns Syria Gov't on S. Syria 05/26 10:24
BEIRUT (AP) -- The United States warned it would take "firm and appropriate
measures" to protect a cease-fire in southern Syria if President Bashar Assad's
forces move against rebels there.
The area in southwestern Syria, between the border city of Daraa and the
Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, has emerged as a flashpoint in a wider standoff
between regional archrivals Israel and Iran.
The U.S., Russia, and Jordan agreed last year to include Daraa in a
"de-escalation zone" to freeze the lines of conflict. But government forces
have recently dropped leaflets on rebel-held areas warning of an imminent
offensive and urging fighters to lay down their arms, Syrian state media said
In a statement released Friday, the U.S. State Department said it was
concerned by reports that Assad's forces were preparing for an operation in
southwestern Syria. It warned the government against "any actions that risk
broadening the conflict."
Assad has relied on Russia, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah
to battle an uprising against his family's decades-long rule and roll-back an
Islamic State insurgency that grew out of the country's seven-year civil war.
Iran has sent military commanders to oversee battles and organize militias from
across the Middle East to fight alongside Assad's troops.
The U.S. and Israel view Iran's extensive military presence in Syria as a
threat to Israel and have threatened action. The Israeli military is believed
to be behind dozens of airstrikes in recent years against Hezbollah, Iran, and
Syrian military positions.
Earlier this month, Israel bombed Iranian military positions in Syria in
what it said was retaliation for an Iranian rocket attack on the occupied Golan
Heights. Israel called it its most serious operation in Syria since the 1973
The government began moving reinforcements to Daraa province this week after
expelling the last rebels and IS militants from around Damascus, according to
the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely monitors
Leaflets dropped on northern Daraa, which is divided between rebel and
government-controlled areas, warned: "The men of the Syrian army are coming."
The Syrian uprising began in Daraa in 2011. The cease-fire has slowly
disintegrated as government warplanes have carried out airstrikes against