Syria Daily: Pro-Assad Troops Celebrate, But 100,000s Displaced in South

A Syrian family, displaced from Daraa Province by pro-Assad attacks, near the Jordan border

Pro-Assad forces celebrated in southern Syria on Saturday, raising regime flags at the Nassib border crossing with Jordan for the first time since 2015.

Meanwhile, about 320,000 people — displaced since June 19 by the pro-Assad ground assaults and Russian and regime bombing of Daraa Province — are considering whether to return to their homes.

On Friday, rebels in most of Daraa, where the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, agreed a surrender with Russian officers. They will give up their heavy weapons in return for a Russian guarantee of the safe return of the displaced.

See Syria Daily, July 7: Rebels Agree to Surrender Deal in South

The regime hosted a media tour of the Naseeb crossing yesterday, with photos of Bashar al-Assad placed on a checkpoint at the entrance. Dozen of regime soldiers, accompanied by Russian military police and armored vehicles with the Russian flag, were on patrol.

A convoy of tanks and vehicles, with hundreds of forces and regime flags, appeared to be moving towards western Daraa Province, where the opposition still holds several towns. A commander said, “I believe they will decide to return to the state’s embrace, and if they are late in doing so, then we are ready to end it militarily.”

“Russia and Regime Offer No Safety”

Unconfirmed claims said about 28,000 people are returning to homes in eastern Daraa Province, and Jordanian army and civilian medical workers on the border — where about 60,000 are gathered — reported a sharp drop in the number of cases they received after the announcement of Friday’s capitulation deal.

But many of those in makeshift camps showed no intention of returning.

Umm Abdul Salam fled with her husband, son, and daughter when the village of Hirak was bombed last week. “For God’s sake, let us in. We don’t want food or water and we just want safety,” she pleaded to Jordanian troops at the Jaber crossing.

“There is no word of what happened to the people who returned yesterday,” she said. “Many families who returned to their areas have been killed by the regime and the militias even after four or five months.”

About 160,000 people have gathered near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Both Jordan and Israel are denying entry, although the Israeli Defense Forces have been providing humanitarian assistance such as food, medicine, and clothes.

Osama al-Homsi, 26, said he was hesitant to return to his hometown of Jeeza:

Of course I support the agreement to stop the fighting and bloodshed. “But what is frightening is that it comes with no UN guarantees….The Russian and the Syrian regime offer no safety….[Only] if we are guaranteed that no one will pursue us, will we want to return.

After past recaptures of opposition territory, such as eastern Aleppo city in December 2016 and East Ghouta near Damascus in April, regime forces have abducted, detained, and forcibly conscripted residents.

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Silence from Scott Lucas on the debunking of the totally false sarin claim by the United States and the White Helmets following the OPCW’s interim report on Douma. The BBC and Reuters have also had to admit lying about the discovery of certain chlorinated chemicals which they falsely judged were proof of a chlorine gas attack when they are likely household items, including chlorinated drinking water.

    • Syriana,

      No silence at all. Your sarin argument is a red herring — no one ever claimed confirmed use of organophosphates. Rather, medical staff and others in East Ghouta — including some EA sources — believe that organosphosphates *may* have been used because of scale and severity of injuries as well as number killed.

      That is why EA always referred to indication that it was “chlorine and a stronger agent” and *not* organophosphates.

      The BBC and Reuters have not “admitted lying”. They are using the term from report “various chlorinated organic chemicals”. And there is no indication that these came from “drinking water” or are just “household items”.

      S.

      • With all due respects Scott, you would have headlined the OPCW report had it been to your liking.

        Rather, medical staff and others in East Ghouta — including some EA sources — believe that organosphosphates *may* have been used because of scale and severity of injuries as well as number killed.

        You’re diverting. The claims made by these sources claimed that organophosphates had been used on the basis of symptoms they had observed in alleged victims.

        References to a “stronger agent” clearly led many to assume this meant a Sarin type substance.

        As for the BBC and Reuters, they have indeed posted misleading headlines. They claimed the OPCW report confirmed a CW attack using chlorine gas. The report made no such statement. The BBC headline read: It headlined “Syria war: Douma attack was chlorine gas – watchdog”.

        It was only in response to a barrage of social-media criticism that they correct their ‘mistake’. It now headlines: Syria war: ‘Possible chlorine’ at Douma attack site – watchdog. Nowhere did the OPCW report or its Technical Statement use the expression ‘possible chlorine’.

        It all began with Reuters headline which read “Interim OPCW report find chlorine used in Syra’s Douma”. They also changed the headline from mentioning chlorine to chlorinated chemicals.

        And there is no indication that these came from “drinking water” or are just “household items”.

        Chlorinated chemicals are by definition much more benign than yet chlorine gas. What would be the purpose of firing munitions merely filled with chemicals that would barely serve as an irritant?

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