Southern Front (Syrian rebel group)

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Southern Front
الجبهة الجنوبية
LeadersSee Leadership
Dates of operation13 February 2014[1][2] – 21 July 2018[3][4][5][6]
Active regionsDaraa Governorate[8]
Quneitra Governorate[8]
As Suwayda Governorate[8]
IdeologySyrian nationalism[9][10]
Islamism (factions)[11]
Secularism (factions)[12]
Size25,000 (Nov. 2015);[13] 30,000 (July 2018)[14]
Part ofSyrian opposition Free Syrian Army (disputed)
See Nature of the Front
Battles and warsSyrian Civil War See List of battles

The Southern Front (Arabic: الجبهة الجنوبية‎) was a Syrian rebel alliance consisting of 54 or 58 Syrian opposition factions affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, established on 13 February 2014 in southern Syria.[1][11][17]

By June 2015, the Southern Front controlled about 70 percent of Daraa Governorate, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.[18]

Claims have been made by the Southern Front itself[19] and by media in Britain,[17] Germany[11] and the United Arab Emirates[20] that the Southern Front is being funded by the US and its allies, possibly through a US led Military Operations Center (MOC) based in Amman, Jordan. Since its formation, rebels said, field operation rooms have been added inside Syria to improve coordination between units.[7] The coalition was "described by Western officials as the best organized of the mainstream opposition".[21] The constituent groups ranged from secularist groups to moderate religious groups, and the Southern front has been described as a "non-hardline Islamist rebel group" that rejects extremism.[11]

Nature of the Front[edit]

The Southern Front was an alliance of over 50 rebel groups, ranging from secularist to moderately religious.[11] Bashar al-Zoubi, head of the Yarmouk Army, said to the BBC in 2014 that the groups or factions of the Southern Front are militarily coordinated by a moving command centre with a unified leadership but with no overall commander and no centralised command—which is contradictory.[17][22]

The Carter Center, a private organization in the U.S. promoting human rights globally, in February 2015 also described the Southern Front as a loose coalition of self-described moderate armed groups without leadership or organizational structure, that agreed on the name ‘Southern Front’ to receive support from the inter-governmental Friends of Syria[23] through the southern MOC ("Military Operations Center") in Amman.[24]

The relation between Southern Front and Syrian armed rebel group Free Syrian Army (FSA) has been described differently by different news sources. Remarks of news sources about such relation are in some cases more or less compatible, in other cases incompatible. Some statements in chronological order:

  1. The Syrian Observer on 14 February 2014 stated that 49 rebel groups in southern Syria had announced in a statement the establishment of ‘The Southern Front’ and suggested vaguely that that Southern Front were affiliated with FSA.[2]
  2. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace mentioned on 21 March 2014 that the ‘Omari Brigades’, one of the FSA units from 2011, became a member faction of 'Syrian Revolutionaries Front' (created in December 2013) which was in mid-February 2014 one of the 49 factions that banded together as the Southern Front signing a statement.[8]
  3. The Huffington Post stated on 15 May 2014 that a loose coalition of about 50 rebel units including the largest FSA units in southern Syria in February 2014 had announced the establishment of the Southern Front.[7]
  4. The National Interest stated on 6 July 2015 that the Southern Front is a coalition of Free Syrian Army brigades, which had made significant gains in Daraa Governorate.[25]
  5. Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad wrote on 10 October 2015: "Saudi Arabia is increasing its weapons deliveries to Syrian rebels. That concerns three different groups: Jaish al-Fatah, the Free Syrian Army, and the Southern Front."[26]
  6. The International Business Times on 12 March 2016 made mention of a ‘Southern Front’ which it describes as a group of Syrian opposition groups formerly members of FSA, focusing primarily on the Daraa and Quneitra governorates.[27]



In mid-February 2014, according to a Syrian rebel brigade officer, the Military Operations Command (MOC) in Jordan designed for channeling Western and Gulf aid to moderate rebel forces in southern Syria convened a meeting with leaders of nearly 50 southern rebel groups and directed them to create a new umbrella coalition.[1] This resulted in the "Southern Front" being formed on 13 February 2014.[1][22]

The formation of the front and its backing by western forces challenged al-Nusra's military and political success in the region, though Southern Front units continued to cooperate with al-Nusra forces.[28]

The Southern Front quickly became the largest rebel fighter umbrella organization in Southern Syria, comprising 25–30,000 fighters, the great majority of the South's rebel groups and manpower.[22]

Initial growth[edit]

On 13 November 2014, it was reported that 15 factions of the Southern Front drew up a political program as an alternative to the exile-led opposition in Turkey, in which they are planning to turn the Southern Front into a civilian security force.[21] At the same time a provincial council was established. This political program is intended to have "broad appeal among Syrian civilians and to undercut support for more extreme interpretations of Islam that has been spreading".[20]

Around that time, almost 40 small rebel groups joined the First Corps in the south.[20]

On 27 December 2014, the 18 March Division, Yarmouk Army, Fallujah of Houran Brigade and Lions of Sunna Brigade merged under the command structure of the Hawks of the South coalition to strengthen the Southern Front.[29]

On 1 January 2015, the Hamza Division, Syria Revolutionaries Front (SRF) southern command and 1st Artillery Regiment merged under the command structure of the First Army.[30]

As of February 2015, Southern Front operations were executed through seven 'Southern Front operation rooms'.[31]

On 15 May 2015, the Southern Front unified under one military council, chaired by 7 senior members.[32] On 1 June 2015, the Southern Front paraded for the graduation of one thousand new members.[33]

In June 2015, the SF launched Operation Southern Storm to take Deraa city's northern and eastern districts from government control. The operation was largely unsuccessful.[22]

Decline from late 2015[edit]

After Operation Southern Storm, SF declined in size and lost some of its support from the MOC.[22] In late 2016, its then 58 groups were re-organised around four of the largest units with close ties to the MOC: Youth of Sunnah Brigade, Yarmouk Army, 24th Infantry Division and Amoud Houran Division.[22]

On 18 June 2018, the Southern Front was hit by "Operation Basalt", a pro-Syrian government offensive in Daraa and Quneitra province. By 23 July the forces of the Southern Front were fully defeated, and lost all territory that was under their control.[4] Surrendering fighters agreed to either reconciliation deals or were relocated to Idlib.[5][6]

Many of the "reconciled" fighters have gone on to participate in the Daraa insurgency, starting in 23 November 2018 (including the March 2020 Daraa clashes).

Support and funding[edit]

Southern Front fighters raise the Syrian independence flag, 2 August 2017.

General Ibrahim Jbawi, spokesperson for the Southern Front, stated in November 2014 that his group received money and weapons from the US, France, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.[19] Activists said that Jordan also facilitated the Southern Front by allowing them to cross freely to and from Jordan.[19]

The Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) based newspaper The National stated in November 2014 that the Military Operations Command centre (MOC) in Amman, Jordan, staffed by "western and Arab military officials",[34] had sent out food baskets to six rebel factions in southern Syria, presumably members of the Southern Front.[20] The BBC, not revealing its sources, claimed in December 2014 that the Southern Front was "backed" through the Military Operations Center in Jordan, "a logisitics and supply hub" run by the US with European and Arab allies.[17] The German Heinrich Böll Foundation claimed in 2015 that the Southern Front is being "funded" by a Military Operations Center (MOC) in Amman, Jordan which is run by "the US and its allies", but did not specify or corroborate what that "funding" implied.[11] No American official has yet admitted to the US supporting the Southern Front.[17] The MOC has reportedly been inactive since 2017.[35]

The National also reported that Southern Front members participating in the fight against the Syrian government receive $50–$100 per month while those who fight against ISIL receive $100–$250 per month from the MOC. However, the MOC threatened to cut funds unless the SF launch an offensive against ISIL.[36]


  • Brig. Gen. Bashar al-Zoubi[37]
    (former overall Leader)
  • Brig. Gen. Ziad Fahd[38]
    (Deputy Chief of Staff)
  • Lt. Col. Majid al-Sayid Ahmed
    (Head of the Operations Department)
  • Col. Saber Safar
    (Member of the Military Council)[32]
  • Col. Bakur Salim al-Salim 
    (Member of the Military Council)[32]
  • Col. Khaled al-Nabulsi
    (Member of the Military Council)[32]
  • Maj. Hassam Ibrahim
    (Member of the Military Council)[32]
  • Capt. Said Nakresh
    (Member of the Military Council)[32]
  • Ahmad al-Awdesh
    (Member of the Military Council)[32]
  • Samer al-Haboush
    (Member of the Military Council)[32]
  • Maj. Issam Rayes

Military activities[edit]


Maj. Issam Rayes, spokesperson of the Southern Front, during the Astana talks in January 2017

On 25 March 2015, the Southern Front captured the town of Bosra after a 3-day long battle.[40]

On 1 April 2015, the Southern Front captured the Nasib border crossing, the last government-controlled border crossing into Jordan.[41]

After the Southern Front's strategic victory at the capture of Brigade 52 in early June 2015, an analyst from the Institute for Strategic Studies stated that "The Southern Front is now showing itself as an increasingly effective buffer against Islamist rebels as well as an effective means for applying pressure on the Assad regime", and Southern Front spokesman Issam al-Reis stated that "We have most of Daraa liberated, our lines of defense behind us are solid, and now we can start the operation toward Damascus and the highway leading to it".[18]

On 17 June 2015, the Southern Front launched an offensive to take all of Quneitra province.[42]

On 25 June 2015, the Southern Front announced "Southern Storm", an offensive to capture Daraa city, where the Syrian Revolution began in 2012.[43] By mid-August the offensive had failed to make significant advances, but the government had responded by increasing attacks on civilian neighborhoods, killing dozens of civilians, leading to public demonstrations against the Southern Front's failed strategy.[11] An analysis by the Heinrich Böll Foundation suggested that the Southern Front had failed to receive significant support from the Military Operations Center in Jordan.[11]

In July and August 2016 more than 200 rebels from the Southern Front defected to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, successor to al-Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham due to better pay and more willingness to fight government forces.[44]

In the second half of 2016, Southern Front member groups where involved in failed operations against ISIS, those being the 2016 Abu Kamal offensive and the Eastern Qalamoun 2016 offensive.

On 12 February 2017, Free Syrian Army groups (Southern Front and the Army of Free Tribes), Tahrir al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, Jabhat Ansar al-Islam, and Alwiya al-Furqan - working together as part of the Unified Ranks operations room - launch an offensive in Daraa. A week into the first phase of the offensive, ISIL also started an offensive against the Daraa-based rebels, lasting a week and resulting in an ISIL victory. Clashes between the Southern Front-led rebels and ISIL continued for the next few months.[45]

After three phases, the rebels' Daraa offensive concluded on 6 June, resulting in a partial rebel victory. The following day, the government launched a counter-offensive.[46] On 23 June, pro-government media reported that an attempt at a reconciliation deal fell apart, thus the Syrian Army resumed their offensive in the Palestinian Camp district, accompanied by airstrikes. The operation ended on the same day, with the government reportedly capturing at least 50% of the Daraa Refugee Camp[47]

From 29 December 2016 to 30 April 2017, a myriad of groups that allegedly included Tahrir al-Sham launched a multi-phase operation in the Eastern Qalamoun Mountains and the Syrian Desert with the aim to expel the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from the desert in southern Syria and to open a supply route between two rebel-held areas. The operation was successful in pushing back ISIL, though they were unable to connect the two rebel-held areas as due to heavy resistance from ISIS. during the operation, the government was also able to take territory from ISIL.

On 7 May, the government launched their desert campaign that initially started along the highway from Damascus to the border with Iraq against rebel forces. Its first intended goal was to capture both the highway and the al-Tanf border crossing, thus securing the Damascus countryside from a potential rebel attack, later, multiple other fronts were opened as part of the operation throughout the desert, as well as operation "Grand Dawn" against ISIL with the aim of reopening the Damascus-Palmyra highway and preparing for an offensive towards Deir ez-Zor. The operation resulted in the Syrian Army encircling the rebel-held Eastern Qalamoun pocket and at the same time erasing the front-line between rebel forces and ISIL in the An-Tanf area.

On 24 June 2017, Tahrir al-Sham, FSA groups, and other rebels reportedly established the Army of Muhammad operations room and launched a new Quneitra offensive, targeting the town of Madinat al-Baath, also known as Baath City.[48][49] The offensive lasted a week, resulting in a government victory, reversing all rebel gains during the offensive.[50][51] During the fighting, two stray artillery rounds hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, prompting Israeli forces to target the Syrian military artillery position which according to them was the source of the firing.[52]

On 3 July 2017, a four-day ceasefire was announced by the government, in opposition-held southern Syria.[50]

As a precursor to Astana 5 peace talks, on 9 July 2017 at 0900 GMT, an American-Russian-Jordanian brokered ceasefire commenced, though on 14 July, opposition groups participating in the Quneitra offensive rejected the ceasefire, with clashes resuming across Southern Syria.[53] Besides minor violations from all sides involved, as of 15 July, the ceasefire as held.[54] The Southern Front boycotted these talks.[54]

Many of the "reconciled" fighters have gone on to participate in the Daraa insurgency, starting in 23 November 2018 (including the March 2020 Daraa clashes).

List of battles[edit]

Date Battle Place Against Result
3 February – 27 May 2014 Daraa offensive (February–May 2014) Daraa Governorate,
Quneitra Governorate
Syrian Arab Armed Forces
27 August – 23 September 2014 2014 Quneitra offensive Quneitra Governorate,
Daraa Governorate
Syrian Arab Armed Forces Green tickY victory
3 – 6 October 2014 Daraa offensive (October 2014) Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces Green tickY victory
1 November – 15 December 2014 Battle of Al-Shaykh Maskin Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces
Green tickY victory
24 – 31 January 2015 Daraa offensive (January 2015) Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces
Green tickY victory
7 February – 13 March 2015 2015 Southern Syria offensive Daraa Governorate,
Rif Dimashq Governorate,
Quneitra Governorate
Syrian Arab Armed Forces
Iranian IRGC
Liwa Fatemiyoun
21 – 25 March 2015 Battle of Bosra (2015) Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces
Iranian IRGC
Green tickY victory
1 April 2015 Battle of Nasib Border Crossing Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces Green tickY victory
8 June 2015 Brigade 52 offensive Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces Green tickY victory
10 June 2015 Battle of al-Thula airbase Suwayda Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces Red XN defeat
17 June 2015 Quneitra offensive (2015) Quneitra Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces indecisive
25 June 2015 Operation Southern Storm (Daraa City offensive) Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces Red XN defeat
2 – 24 October 2015 Quneitra offensive (October 2015) Quneitra Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces Red XN defeat
27 December 2015 – 25 January 2016 Second Battle of Al-Shaykh Maskin Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces
Red XN defeat
3 – 5 March 2016 Al-Tanf offensive (2016) Homs Governorate Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Green tickY victory
21 March – 8 April 2016 Daraa offensive (March–April 2016) Daraa Governorate Islamic Muthanna Movement
Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade
Green tickY victory
28 – 29 June 2016 2016 Abu Kamal offensive Abu Kamal District Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Red XN defeat
3 September – 15 October 2016 Eastern Qalamoun offensive (September–October 2016) Eastern Qalamoun Mountains Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Red XN defeat
29 December 2016 – 30 April 2017 Syrian Desert campaign (December 2016–April 2017) Syrian Desert Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Green tickY victory
12 February – 6 June 2017 Daraa offensive (February–April 2017) Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces
Green tickY victory
7 – 23 June 2017 Daraa offensive (June 2017) Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces


24 June – 1 July 2017 Quneitra offensive (June 2017) Quneitra Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces Red XN defeat
7 May – 13 July 2017 Syrian Desert campaign (May-July 2017) Daraa Governorate Syrian Arab Armed Forces
Iranian IRGC
Liwa Fatemiyoun
PMF-affiliated Iraqi militias
Red XN defeat
18 June – 21 July 2018 Southern Syria offensive Daraa Governorate,
Quneitra Governorate
Syrian Arab Armed Forces
Palestinian militias
Iranian IRGC
Liwa Fatemiyoun
Red XN defeat

Member groups[edit]

  • Revolutionary Army
  • Alliance of Southern Forces[57]
    • Omari Brigades
    • 18 March Division
      • Martyr Houran
      • Liberation of Houran
      • Engineering and Rocket Battalion[37]
    • Salvation Army[58]
      • Free Nawa Division
        • 8th Infantry Division[59]
      • Martyr Jamil Abu Zain Sharaf Division
      • Special Task Force Division
    • Division of Decisiveness
    • Division of Righteousness
    • 46th Infantry Division
      • 24th Infantry Division
      • 69th Special Forces Division
        • Free Men of Inkhil Brigade
        • Murabitun Brigade
        • Lions of Islam Brigade
        • Fath al-Mubin Brigade
      • Al-Bayt Brigade
    • 1st Special Tasks Brigade
    • Brigade of Dignity
  • Southern Alliance[61]
    • Syria Revolutionaries Front[62]
      • 1st Infantry Division[63]
        • 1st Infantry Gathering
        • Gathering of Righteousness[64]
          • Brigade of Two Holy Mosques
        • Union of the Unity of the Nation
        • Saladin Brigades
        • Tank Brigade
      • 63rd Southern Division[65]
        • Dawn of the Levant Union
        • Abu Dujana Brigades
        • Jafar al-Tayyar Brigade
        • Lions of Mercy Brigade
        • Free Yarmouk Brigade
        • Hazm Brigade
        • Mercy Brigade
        • Southern Martyrs Brigade
        • Martyr Abdul Rahim Samour Brigade
        • Special Tasks Brigade
      • Coming Victory Brigade
      • 7th Division
      • Riyad al-Salehin Battalions of Damascus
      • Special Assignments Regiment of Damascus
      • Helpers Brigades
      • Southern Swords Division[66][better source needed]
      • Martyr Captain Abu Hamza al-Naimi Union
  • 406th Infantry Division[67][better source needed]
  • Unity of the Nation Brigade
  • Hamza Division
    • Houran Mujahideen Brigade
    • Engineering Battalion
  • Lions of Sunna Brigade
  • First Corps[20][68]
    • 8th Infantry Brigade
    • 19th Infantry Brigade
    • 21st Infantry Division
    • 55th Infantry Brigade
    • 99th Infantry Division
    • Victory Division
    • Dawn of Liberation Division
    • Knights of Freedom Division
    • Oasifat Free South Division
    • Sajeel Division
    • Company of Dignity Division
    • Harra Martyrs Brigade
  • 1st Artillery Regiment[30]
  • Southern Brigades[69]
    • Al Mukhtar Brigade
    • Descendants of Ibn al-Walid Brigade
    • Free Daraa Brigade
    • Supporters of the Sunna Brigade
    • Farouq Mujahideen Brigade
    • Al-Amryn al-Islami Brigade
    • Northern Commandos Brigade
    • Qastat of Muslims Brigade
    • Soldiers of Islam Brigade
    • Al-Murabitun Brigade
    • Servants of al-Rahman Division
    • Tawhid Army[70]
      • Hittin Brigade
      • Soldiers of Mercy Brigades
      • Hamza, Lion of God Brigade
      • Black al-Rahman
      • Bani Khalid
  • Youth of Sunna Forces
    • Hamza Division
    • Zaidi Cavalry Division
    • Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz Brigade
    • Spears of Alwali Brigade
    • Martyr Yousef the Great Brigade
    • Martyr Ahmed al-Khalaf Brigade
    • Zaidi Knights Brigade
    • Shield of Lajat Brigade
    • Abu Saddam Brigade
    • Martyr Ahmed al-Miqdad
    • Banner of the Martyrs of Bosra
    • Martyr Abdul Razzaq Azaaba Brigade
    • Martyr Zuhair al-Zoubi Brigade
    • Martyr Akhawsh Brigade
    • Descendants of Ali Brigade
    • Martyr Obeida Alissa Brigade
    • Medical Battalion
    • Mujahideen Houran
    • Inkhil Martyrs Brigade
  • Quneitra Military Council
    • Grandsons Brigade
  • Quneitra and the Golan Heights Military Council[71][better source needed]
A Sword of al-Sham Brigades (Ezz Brigade's Jesus Christ Brigade) fighter prepares to launch a BGM-71 TOW missile.
  • Golan Knights Brigade[72]
  • Sword of al-Sham Brigades[citation needed]
  • Supporters of al-Huda[73]
  • Descendants of the Prophet Brigade
  • Dawn of Syria Brigade
  • Osoud al-Sham
  • Hamza Lion of God Brigade
  • Al-Ezz bin Abdessalam Brigade
  • Dignity Brigade
  • Ghouta Mujahedin Brigade
  • Lower Qalamoun Brigade
  • Freedom Martyrs Brigade
  • Al-Haramein al-Sharifein Brigade
  • Habib Brigade
  • Bunyan Battalion
  • First Knights' Regiment
  • Second Knights' Regiment
  • Mutasim Billah Brigade
    • al-Shahid Abu Saled Battalion
    • Saraya Omawiyeen Battalion[73]
    • 22nd Infantry Battalion[74]
  • Special Assignments Regiment
  • Special Assignments Brigade
  • Houran Storm Brigade
  • Martyr of Houran Brigade
  • Fallujah of Houran Brigade
  • Houran Tawhid Battalions
  • Tawhid al-Lajat Battalion
  • Southern Tawhid Brigade
  • Western Countryside Freemen Battalion[8]

Former groups[edit]

See also[edit]


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