Media misinformation: DEBKAfile claims Assad’s forces conducted a massacre in Daraa
According to Israeli news outlet DEBKAfile Assad’s forces have perpetrated a terrible massacre, killing 140 in Daraa, a town in southern Syria which is currently the scene of fierce fighting between regime forces and a variety of rebel groups. Based on DEBKAfile’s own article and articles from other news agencies, it appears that their claim of such a massacre is highly dubious or at the least willfully made out of context.
The DEBKAfile’s article leaves no question what the author’s view on Assad is and opens:1
“Bashar Assad’s troops and his allies, the Iran-backed Lebanese Hizballah, are notorious for their barbaric cruelty to the populations they conquer. But even by their own appalling standards, the massacre they wreaked against the 100,000 citizens of the southern Syrian town of Daraa this week must stand out as a milestone from hell.”
“The offensive the Syrian government army and Hizballah launched against their positions [rebel forces] on Sunday, June 11, left 140 dead and hundreds injured in its first hours.
debkafile’s military sources report that it started with dozens of Syrian air force helicopters dropping 150 explosive barrels on those positions, while Syrian bomber-fighter planes conducted at least 25 sorties against rebel rooftop positions atop the highest buildings, and Syrian artillery fired off some 120 ground-to-ground missiles against various key points in the town of Daraa. Syrian and Hizballah forces advanced into the town under this hellish blitz.”
Usually when I think of a massacre I picture civilians or captured combatants being lined up and shot en masse. The article’s headline evokes in a reader such a scene occurring in Daraa. But, based on the passages that I have quoted it is clear that the 140 people ‘massacred’ were rebel fighters killed during combat by a fierce aerial and artillery bombardment by Assad’s forces. To me this does not sound like a massacre, but merely standard warfare, however brutal and vicious it may be.
This is not to say that civilians have not been killed in Daraa or targeted by the Syrian regime. Daily Sabah and the AP have reported that regime forces used napalm bombs against civilians.2 According to Syrian Direct:3
“Russian missiles struck a camp housing displaced families, residential homes and roadways in Tafas, a town 15km northwest of Daraa city, killing 12 residents and injuring dozens more in what is “the single worst massacre” since the start of the latest round of fighting in the provincial capital.”
If we are to believe such reports, then civilians are being killed in Daraa by the regime offensive, yet DEBKAfile with its ‘sources’ made no mention of this incident in their article. It seems to me that in this instance DEBKAfile is more concerned with demonizing Assad than accurately reporting the situation.
If Daraa, the town and province, is retaken by Assad, then Iran and Hezbollah will have a base of operation from which they can threaten Israel in the nearby Golan. It should be remembered that Moshe Yaalon, a former Israeli Defense Minister, has admitted “if I had to choose between Iran and Daesh [ISIL], I would prefer Daesh.”4
It is safe to presume that DEBKAfile prefers Syrian rebel groups, such as the Free Syrian Army, Ahrar al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, over Assad, Iran and Hezbollah. So their misinformation on the ongoing battle for Daraa should come as little surprise.
 https://www.dailysabah.com/syrian-crisis/2017/06/12/assad-regime-targets-civilians-in-daraa-with-flammable-napalm-bombs , http://www.wqow.com/story/35641861/syrian-troops-battle-rebels-in-daraa-advance-on-iraq-border