US warns Syria of ‘firm’ measures for ceasefire violations
The United States on Saturday warned Syria that it will take "firm" action ahainst them if the regime of Bashar al-Assad violates a ceasefire deal, after Syrian aircraft dropped leaflets on a southern province ahead of an expected offensive.
Residents of Daraa told AFP Friday that several different leaflets were scattered across the province, which has borders with Israel and Jordan and is expected to be among the next targets in the resurgent regime's reconquest.
“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,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement late on Friday.
One of them, seen by a journalist contributing to AFP in the city of Daraa, includes a picture showing lined up bodies, presumably of anti-government fighters.
"This is the inevitable fate of anyone who insists on carrying arms," reads the leaflet.
The US warning comes weeks after a similar attack on a de-escalation zone in northeastern Syria held by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. US ground and air forces repelled the more than four-hour attack, killing perhaps as many as 300 pro-Assad militia members, many of them Russian mercenaries.
Backed by Russian warplanes, ground forces from Iran and allied militia, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have helped Assad drive rebels from Syria’s biggest cities, putting him in an unassailable military position. They have recaptured all remaining insurgent areas near Damascus in recent weeks, including the densely populated eastern Ghouta area, as well as big enclaves in central Syria.
The government is now in its strongest position since the early months of the war in 2011, although still a long way from achieving Assad’s aim of reasserting sway over all of Syria. Anti-Assad rebels still control two large contiguous areas of territory in the northwest and southwest. Kurdish and allied Arab militia backed by the United States hold the quarter of Syria east of the Euphrates.