The southern Syrian province of Daraa recently witnessed the heaviest fighting between opposition and regime forces since 2018. The subsequent Russian-brokered ceasefire remains fragile, while the disruption to Syrians continues to suffer.
It was at least 15 civilians killing In an artillery attack launched by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad at the end of July when the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militias tried to violently subjugate Deraa, considered the cradle of the 2011 uprising.
The main reason for the renewed violence was the presidential elections on May 31, in which the people of Daraa did not participate. While citizens in most of the regime-controlled areas voted for Assad out of fear, Daraa residents organized an anti-government demonstration at the Omari Mosque the day before the elections.
The mosque is still a place great symbolic significance. In 2011, the first significant demonstrations of the Syrian revolution took place in its surroundings. When regime forces clashed and opened fire, the mosque itself was turned into a field hospital. The atrocities committed by the military there sparked outrage across the country and led to large-scale demonstrations in various cities.
However, the rebels were also defeated in Daraa in 2018. Subsequent reconciliation deals were facilitated in exchange for fighters handing over their weapons to the Syrian army. But Russia, the main ally of the Assad regime, did not accept a full occupation of the province by Assad’s forces because it did not want to jeopardize its relations with Israel by allowing Iranian militias fighting alongside Assad’s forces to establish a foothold too close to it. Israel.
Daraa is the link point between the Syrian and Jordanian lands on the border with the occupied Syrian Golan, and this line specifically drew an important Israeli-Jordanian red line in preventing Iran and its allies from spreading and approaching the Golan Heights and the islands. “Jordan’s borders,” Samer Bakour, a lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter, told Al Jazeera.
The lack of a Syrian military presence led to frequent opposition attacks, which led to Russia demanding new reconciliation deals to seize more weapons from the people of Daraa. But Daraa refused the Russian request and the Syrian armed forces surrounded the neighborhoods of Daraa al-Balad on June 25.
Assad’s forces besieged 40,000 residents of the historic district, cutting off food, water, electricity, and medicine. Roads to city hospitals were also cut off.
Bakour said the tactics used in Deraa had been seen before.
The Daraa model that the regime followed has become reproduced from most of the areas that the regime tightened its grip on, whether through destruction and the use of a scorched-earth policy, isolating areas from each other, and then displacing civilians for those who do so. They do not want reconciliation and the imposition of forced “reconciliations” on those who decide to stay, and the young people will move among them to the fronts. “
Bakour indicated that the Central Committee of Daraa al-Balad met during this escalation with the Russian general, Asaad Allah, who has a prominent role in the exacerbation of the conflict.
The latest escalation was related to the people of Daraa accusing the Russian forces of angering the people, especially the Russian officer Assad Allah, who demanded the establishment of checkpoints for the regime forces in the city and the search of houses in search of heavy and light weapons.
In addition, the regime sought to deport five symbols of the armed opposition, such as Muhammad al-Masalma and Muayyad Harfush, to the pro-Turkish opposition-controlled areas in northern Syria, and the Fourth Division began bombing neighborhoods, which led to a severe escalation in Bakour.
The infamous 4th Division – currently in the area – was accused of committing war crimes against civilians at the start of the revolution.
After various meetings between the Central Committee and the regime, the two sides agreed on a five-stage agreement that includes handing over the rest of the light weapons in exchange for lifting the siege and ending the military campaign, although three checkpoints were maintained in the city.
However, Bakur said he does not think this equals a paradigm shift on the Russian side.
The regime forces tightened their siege on Daraa al-Balad, as they wanted to subjugate Daraa. However, Russia still claims that it will not intervene directly because it has already settled in Daraa.
However, a ceasefire is unlikely to improve the situation. Although talks must continue in order to be able to achieve a lasting solution, there are already various reports that both sides are in breach. According to the Syrian army, Areas in Daraa were bombed In early August, while the rebels Syrian soldiers attacked A few days ago.
Continued instability jeopardizes the humanitarian situation in Syria.
“In the past few weeks, we have seen the humanitarian situation rapidly deteriorate in the country. Even with the fragile ceasefire, the impact of recent clashes has led to mass displacement, and the seemingly indiscriminate nature of some of the attacks means that the seemingly indiscriminate nature of some attacks means that Civilians are still at risk.
Kayali, given the precarious situation on the ground, urged the international community to stop, at a minimum, the Syrian government from arming aid.
The international community must first and foremost ensure that aid organizations operating in Daraa have access to all individuals at risk of starvation and not allow the Syrian government to use aid as a weapon in its confrontations, which we have seen time and time again do in other contexts.”
If the ceasefire is indeed temporary, the outlook remains dire for the Syrian residents of Daraa.
“Unless all parties to the conflict respect the rights and well-being of civilians, we will continue to see the situation getting worse, as happened in Aleppo, Idlib and Eastern Ghouta,” Kayali said.