Rebels in Syria’s south brace for onslaught, fear wider war

Rebels in southern Syria who were once backed by the United States fear a new offensive by President Bashar Assad’s forces, one that risks igniting a wider conflict.

A government push to the south could bring allied Iranian and Russian forces even closer to the increasingly tense frontier with Israel, and to U.S. forces based further to the east. A breakdown in security across the region could also provide an opening for Islamic State militants to regroup.

For years, rebel forces known as the Southern Front received covert U.S. arms, funding and training to help them fight both the Syrian government and IS. But President Donald Trump ended the CIA program last year to try and extricate the U.S. from the civil war.

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