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Operation Dafe or Operation Shove was a major Syrian Government offensive designed to take opposition forces by surprise and allow the Syrian Government to gain control of Homs. The offensive due to it's high levels of brutality caused a heavy swing of western public opinion against the Syrian government and the offensive was the main contributing factor behind the NATO intervention in Syria.
The offensive was designed to be a surprise breach of the ceasefire and using a large concentration of forces in one area and using all weapons available to cause a collapse in the Homs region and for the offensive to then be followed by targeting the southern Syrian regions with the bulk of Syrian forces in the north being removed and once the south had been secured a major offensive in the north to end the civil war once and for all.
Bashar al Assad became disenchanted with the slow progress of his armed forces at regaining control of situation in Syria and when he hard about Kofi Annan's plan for a ceasefire he decided he could use this to his advantage and end the war in Syria with a victory for him and his government. When the Six Point Peace plan was offered Assad agreed to it and ordered all his forces in Syria to respect the new ceasefire and they were not to open fire unless the rebel groups launched a major attack and anyone fighting would be punished.
With a halt in the fighting Assad and his generals set about preparing for their massive surprise attack. The large bulk of troops and almost all of the Syrian army's equipment was withdrawn from where ever it had been committed to and re assigned to a position in the Homs region. Large stores of chemical weapons were created and stockpiled alongside a large amount of aircraft and artillery.
Preparations for this were done largely in secret and a lot of movement was done in small groups or at night. the failure of international intelligence agencies to realize the build up and impending attack would lead to them being heavily criticised later.
At midnight the final assembly and preparations were made for the offensive to start at 5:25 when the sun rises in Homs. Aircraft were fuelled and armed while artillery was prepared for the grand attack. The waves of aircraft set off between 4:00 and 5:00 and then started to move off into position. All units had their watches checked and synchronised and at 5:25 the attack began. A vast artillery barrage opened up with conventional weapons aimed at opposition strong points while a large amount of Sarin gas was thrown generally into rebel held areas to pre- empt a government offensive. At the same time a portion of the Syrian air force dropped the bulk of their ordnance on known or suspected opposition strong points with much of the time simply a building being large enough reason to attack it.
After a initial bombardment the Syrian army ground troops and their supporting vehicles then launched their major offensive at 5:28 just minutes after a large amount of chemical weapons had been deployed. While some of the governments own units reported symptoms of Sarin poisoning in general they found the enemy had suffered significantly worse and made a quick break through opposition battle lines and then pushing further into Homs and the region.
The coordination between units was impressive with enemy strong holds being identified by fast moving ground troops and then hit by either artillery or the air force performing patrols. The air force was also locating and targeting opposition troops behind lines.
The initial attack went well with Syrian mechanised troops racing through the region while follow up ground troops clear out positions behind them.
23- 27 May
After the initial start of the offensive reports of use of chemical weapons, air strikes and prisoner shootings flooded back to the west quickly. The headlines were filled with news of the ceasefire breach and collapse of the FSA in Homs. Social media went into overdrive between the 26th and 27th as anger against Assad flared and governments started emergency sessions to debate the Syrian question. In both the US and UK after emergency debates it looked like NATO would intervene in Syria while in the UN a resolution condemning Assad was nearly issued which would have granted him an ultimatum to destroy all chemical weapons and halt air strikes but it was blocked by Russia.
Deadlock occurred in the UN with Russia blocking any attempt to deal with Assad while western governments anger grew.
Meanwhile in Syria, Assad and his forces had penetrated deep into Homs and the FSA began to organize a retreat out of the region but it was poorly done due to heavy harassment by government forces which resulted in a disorganised rout and surrender of forces who were then executed en mass by advancing government forces. On the 27th May, Assad declared Operation Dafe completed with almost all except a few isolated points in the Homs region under government control.
The Syrian Government had taken large amounts of land and weakened the FSA significantly although anger internally against the Syrian Government and internationality public opinion in the west turned against Assad which would later result in NATO intervention in Syria.