A boy holds up a poster in a protest against sieges in Daraa Province in Southern Syria, “We boycott the elections, they threatened us with militias”, July 2, 2021
UPDATE, SEPT 15:
The Assad regime, enabled by Russia, is expanding its reoccupation of Daraa Province.
Following the regime’s reentry into parts of Daraa city, it pressured dozens of men in Yadudah in western Daraa Province to “settle their situations” and hand over weapons.
This morning the process is being implemented in Muzayrib.
S. #Syria: same process today for nearby village of Muzayrib in the W. #Daraa countryside. #Russia|n forces arrived there this moning as 'wanted' ppl will settle their conditions & handover weapons. pic.twitter.com/HzCcFEYwg5
— QalaatM (@QalaatM) September 15, 2021
UPDATE, SEPT 13:
Residents of Daraa al-Balad have responded with defiance to the reoccupation of their neighborhood by Assad regime forces, supported by Russia, after a siege of 2 1/2 months.
We will restore the city’s beauty and its symbolism.
We regret what happened. We are a peaceful people who want to live in dignity without a security grip or military rule, and we paid a lot for that in Daraa al-Balad.
The current reality has been imposed on us, and we do not know what the coming days will bring to the city after this large military presence represented by nine points surrounding the city.
A member of the Daraa Central Committee maintained that despite the agreement under which regime troops could re-enter the city, “[Residents] were able to maintain their stay on their land and thwarted the project of demographic change that was being hatched for it, with the steadfastness of its people” in the face of regime, Russian, and Iranin forces; sustained shelling; and siege.
Activist Raafat Abazid pointed to provisions in the Russian-brokered agreement under which the regime’s 4th Division are to “withdraw within a few days” and are “not to carry out any raid or arrest campaigns”.
UPDATE, SEPT 9:
Assad regime troops have entered Daraa al Balad, the original site of the 2011 Syrian uprising, for the first time in three years.
The troops entered on Wednesday after a siege and escalated attacks over the past three months against thousands of families still in the section of Daraa city.
Assad regime outlets posted publicity photos of the troops and of a regime flag being hoisted over a building.
Jasem Mahameed, a local elder, responded, “I am devastated. We had become used to being free and we will now return back to living in humiliation.”
UPDATE, SEPT 6:
The US Ambassador to the UN has criticized the Assad regime’s attacks and siege on Daraa, and the forced transfers that have followed.
However, Linda Thomas-Greenfield gave no idea of the substantive action to stop the regime’s assault.
We strongly condemn the Assad regime’s resumed shelling of Daraa after weeks of violence killing many, displacing thousands. The blockage of @UN humanitarian aid to the area must end. Deeply concerned by reports regime is using threats of forced displacement as a pressure tactic.
— Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@USAmbUN) September 6, 2021
UPDATE, SEPT 5:
Despite — or because of — last week’s agreement for the reoccupation of Dara’a and forcible transfers of “wanted men”, the Assad regime has resumed attacks on the original site of the 2011 Syrian uprising.
S. #Syria: first video showing fierce clashes raging in S. #Daraa disctricts following #SAA assault this morning. Heavy battle on several axes as 4th Division is trying to enter. pic.twitter.com/TTX1KtldUf
— QalaatM (@QalaatM) September 5, 2021
A spokesperson for Daraa’s local negotiating committee, Adnan al-Masalma, indicated that implementation of last Tuesday’s agreement had been stalled because the regime refused conditions over the transfer of men, the handover of weapons, and searches of homes.
Masalma said the negotiating committee asked for a safe route for Daraa residents to cross to Jordan or Turkey.
UPDATE, SEPT 2:
Syrian State news agency SANA says 209 wanted men have “settled their status” by handing over weapons in Daraa city.
The site was not clear if the men were forcibly transferred to northwest Syria.
SANA declared that “several settlement centers” will be opened in the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood after it gave way to a 70-day siege for the deployment of Assad regime units and “the return of state’s institutions all over Daraa city”.
A negotiator for the local Daraa committee, Abu Yusef Masalmeh, said of the deal, “The Russian military must live up to their commitment to prevent Iran’s militias from sowing destruction here.”
But Daraa resident Abdallah Aba Zaid, whose wife and four children died in a Russian airstrike, said, “It is a sad day to see the flag of the Russian occupier and the criminal regime in the cradle of the revolution that has seen tens of thousands die for its cause.”
UPDATE, SEPT 1:
Assad regime outlets are reporting an agreement to check its escalating attacks on Daraa.
Citing an unnamed source, the sites claim that a Russian-brokered deal will be renewed on Wednesday. Men will be forcibly transferred from Daraa, the original site of the 2011 Syrian uprising, to opposition-held northwest Syria, and weapons will be handed over.
The original deal from mid-August led to the removal of more than 50 men, but broke down as the Assad regime tightened its 70-day siege and stepped up shelling.
Earlier this week, the local council threatened to end talks, but two meetings were held on Tuesday. According to the pro-Assad sites, the first was with the commander of the Russian forces in Syria and representatives of regime’s 5th Coprs, without any regime officials. A subsequent discussion included the regime’s Defense Minister as well as Daraa’s local leaders and Central Negotiating Committee.
The checkpoints surrounding Daraa city will be reduced to three from nine. A Central Committee member claimed that the regime had dropped its demand for acceptance of Assad as Syria’s legitimate leader.
The regime source claimed its flag, as well as Russia’s, will fly above the neighborhood of Daraa al-Balad, the focus of pro-Assad attacks on thousands of remaining civilians.
— QalaatM (@QalaatM) September 1, 2021
UPDATE, 0900 GMT:
Among the targets of this morning’s Assad regime attacks on Daraa is a mosque.
A video showing the moment of the bombing of Al-Mansour Mosque in Daraa Al-Balad this morning.
The attacks of Assad forces and Iranian militias destroyed most of the remaining mosques in Daraa with systematic targeting. pic.twitter.com/QwgHchGpBF
— Fared Al Mahlool (@FARED_ALHOR) August 30, 2021
UPDATE, AUG 30:
The local committee for Dara’a city has suspended negotiations after the latest intense Assad regime shelling and threat of ground assault.
The committee announced the suspension in a statement on Sunday. It also called for a general mobilization against pro-Assad forces, including those backed by Iran.
Russia’s brokering of discussions had brought a tentative agreement last Tuesday, with some men to be transferred from Dara’a to northwest Syria and Russian military patrols in the city.
— QalaatM (@QalaatM) August 30, 2021
Video of “Elephant” surface-to-surface missiles being launched by the Assad forces on Monday morning:
متداول: لحظة استهداف ميليشيات الفرقة الرابعة لأحياء مدينة درعا المحاصرة بصواريخ أرض – أرض من نوع "فيل".
— تجمع أحرار حوران – Horan Free (@HoranFreeMedia) August 30, 2021
UPDATE, AUG 29:
Pro-opposition activists are reporting intense Assad regime shelling of Daraa through the night and again this morning, after a failed attempt to enter the city from the south.
— QalaatM (@QalaatM) August 29, 2021
One activist reports that “hundreds of 4th Division soldiers” with heavy artillery and armor, including tanks, have reinforced regime positions. However, he notes that any large offensive against Daraa must be allowed by Russia.
UPDATE, AUG 28:
Amnesty International has called on the Assad regime to lift the two-month siege on the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood and allow humanitarian access to about 20,000 people in the area.
Amnesty cited shortages of food, water and medication, with the closure of the only medical point by regime shelling.
Diana Semaan, the organization’s Syria researcher, said:
Civilians are paying the price for battles they have never chosen. The Syrian government must immediately lift the siege to facilitate unfettered access for humanitarian organizations and allow the medical evacuation of the sick and injured
All parties to the conflict must end unlawful attacks, grant safe passage to civilians wanting to flee the area, and comply with international humanitarian law at all times.
Amnesty spoke with four people in Daraa al-Balad — a doctor, an activist, and two residents — and two humanitarian workers.
One humanitarian worker said food supplies in the neighborhood will last two weeks to a month, and there is no electricity or medication.
A female resident summarized:
The shops are almost empty of all food. I am using what I have at home already. Pasta, rice, lentils, etc. There is a woman in the neighbourhood who has a cow, and she distributes milk to some of us, which we use to make yoghurt. There is no electricity for lengthy periods of time, even before the siege.
My cousin, from my father’s side, had health complications and he needed urgent medical care, but we were not able to get him out, the government refused. He died….My neighbour also died from a stroke. He suffered from health problems, but he was too afraid to go to a hospital outside Daraa al-Balad. Even though he was old, he was afraid of being arrested.
UPDATE, AUG 27:
Russian military police are reportedly on patrol in the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood.
A new crime is being carried out by the Assad regime and its Russian ally, by uprooting 79 people, including women and children, from their homes in the city of Daraa and displacing them to northwestern Syria, and this comes two days after the similar displacement of 8 young men. pic.twitter.com/oQcXENiGrn
— Fared Al Mahlool (@FARED_ALHOR) August 27, 2021
UPDATE, AUG 26:
The Assad regime has added to confusion over its threat to overrun parts of Daraa city.
State news agency SANA writes on Thursday that “the 24-hour deadline granted by the Syrian Arab Army” to local men, demanding that they turn over arms and go to opposition-held northwest Syria, “has been extended without any of them leaving”.
SANA says that eight men who left Daraa on Tuesday were not among those wanted by the regime.
Russian forces are reportedly on patrol in the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood, halting shelling by pro-Assad units carrying out a 65-day siege.
However, Assad troops are attacking other areas in Daraa Province, such as Tafas and Nawa. Two women have been killed and several people wounded.
One of the victims was in Tafas. Among four wounded civilians were the woman’s children.
Regime forces target the city of Tafas, west of Daraa with heavy artillery fire. pic.twitter.com/N2ktq3RbAh
— Levant 24 (@Levant_24_) August 26, 2021
UPDATE, AUG 25:
Pro-opposition activists claim pro-Assad forces have fired on civilians, wounding them, near Daraa city.
The forces reportedly shot at civilians near checkpoints enforcing a two-month siege on the city, the original site of the 2011 Syrian uprising. Activists claimed Iran-backed troops were involved, watched by Russians who were supposed to be brokering talks between local groups and the Assad regime.
Iranian militias shoot at civilians as they gather near the Saraya checkpoint, while the Russian military police and the Fifth Corps are present as forces separating the militias from the besieged neighborhoods. pic.twitter.com/0TUxojWfYj
— Nedal Al-Amari (@nedalalamari) August 24, 2021
The regime is trying to detain “wanted men” and seize weapons in neighborhoods such as Daraa al-Balad.
A Russian “road map” for a resolution, presented on August 15, has not made progress. However, unconfirmed claims said “a few fighters” left in buses for opposition-held northwest Syria on Tuesday.
The UN reported that more than 38,000 civilians, including 15,000 women and more than 20,400 children, have been displaced in Daraa Province over the past month. Several thousand residents remain in Daraa al-Balad.
The UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pederson, called from “immediate, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access” to all areas, including Daraa al-Balad.
UPDATE, AUG 21:
Assad regime forces are threatening a new assault on the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood in Daraa city.
The regime military telegraphed the threat on Friday, declaring reinforcements have been sent “after one month of settlement efforts to end the control of terrorists over civilians”.
Photographs, including on Syrian state news agency SANA, showed the deployment of IRAM (improvised rocket-assisted) mortar launchers.
The regime has regularly shelled thousands of residents and imposed a two-month siege on Daraa al-Balad. An attempt earlier this summer to overrun the neighborhood was repelled.
Russia has been brokering talks over the regime’s demand that weapons are handed over and “wanted men” detained.
The regime’s threat comes on the eighth anniversary of its sarin attacks on opposition areas near Damascus, killing more than 1,400 civilians.
UPDATE, AUG 12:
A resident of the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood in Daraa city tells Middle East Eye of life under a 48-day siege by Assad forces.
Suad al-Hariri, her husband, and two sons are among thousands who are trapped. She says:
There is no bread… even the food shops are empty, and we won’t be able to hold on for long….
We have been living without electricity for weeks. Water is barely available, and life in the city is gradually ending.
Hariri’s husband has lost his job as a taxi driver: “There is no fuel and he cannot go out in his car to work outside the city. We charge phones at our neighbour’s home, but the fuel he takes from his car tank to run the generator is about to run out.”
Hariri tried to hide food and cigarettes when she briefly left Daraa weeks ago, but she was held for hours at the last checkpoint out of the city
“I tried to go out again a few days ago to get some bread, but they told me they wouldn’t let me back if I did,” she says.
UPDATE, AUG 10:
Having failed to overrun Daraa with shelling and attacks, Assad forces are reportedly trying to besiege the city into submission.
Pro-opposition activists report that there are “distress calls” from neighborhoods in the city — the site of Syria’s uprising in March 2011 — with exhaustion of flour, closures of bakeries, and cutoffs of electricity and water.
UPDATE, JULY 30:
The Daraa Martyrs Documentation Office says at least eight civilians, including a woman and four children, were killed by Assad regime attacks on Thursday.
Insurgents claim they killed at least eight Assad troops and captured dozens in counter-attacks on checkpoints and regime positions.
Local activist Abu al-Majd al-Hawrani says a ceasefire is being arranged “via the Russians and the [regime] commander Ahmad al-Awda, who is affiliated with the Russians”.
UPDATE, 1200 GMT:
Pro-opposition activists claim that local fighters have not only repelled the Assad regime’s assault on Daraa city, but have counter-attacked and caused regime casualties.
The activist says an ambush of the regime’s 4th Division killed seven troops, and insurgents are attacking regime positions in other parts of Daraa Province, seizing a tank, vehicles, and ammunition.
The regime’s army has responded with mortar fire. Several civilians have reportedly been killed.
UPDATE, JULY 29:
Local activists report a renewed rocket and mortar attack by Assad forces on neighborhoods in Daraa city on Thursday morning. Troops and militia, accompanied by tanks and heavy machine guns, are moving into the area from three directions.
Casualties, including at least one fatality are reported. The only medical point in Daraa al-Balad shut on Wednesday after it was targeted by snipers of the regime army’s 4th Division.
Al Jazeera English’s Zeina Khodr tweets:
Residents of #Daraa al Balad appeal for help … they aren’t able to treat the wounded ; heavy artillery fire targeted the town – town has been besieged by Syria regime forces for a month ; there is a shortage of food and medicine
— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) July 29, 2021
On Wednesday night, a local negotiating committee said it would accept three military points in Daraa al-Balad, provided that the only troops were from residents of Daraa Province.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, JULY 28: Assad regime forces have raided homes in Daraa city, the site of the protests in March 2011 that launched the Syrian uprising.
The troops have encircled cities and towns in Daraa Province in southern Syria, amid hundreds of attacks and assassinations since pro-Assad forces reoccupied the area in spring 2018. Last month, following the staged re-election of Bashar al-Assad, the Daraa al-Balad section of Daraa city was encircled. Electricity, water, and the Internet were cut off to about 11,000 families, sparking protests.
Residents and activists say the purpose of the raids is not to find the perpetrators of attacks. Instead, they accuse the regime forces of trying to punish opposition and prevent dissent by detaining and possibly “disappearing” men.
Tens of thousands of Syrian civilians have been executed, tortured to death, or perished from poor conditions in region prisons during the uprising.
On Tuesday morning, the regime army’s 4th and 15th Divisions entered the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood and raided homes. Afterwards, the force fired on civilians areas with heavy machine guns and mortars. Seven checkpoints were set up, with soldiers seeking to detain men on lists with charges such as “cyber-crime”.
Residents fled Daraa al-Balad for other parts of the city. One man was reportedly shot in the head and died in hospital.
Local groups have denounced the regime’s violations of a truce, brokered by Russian officials, and called for assurances of secure transport of civilians to safe areas if an offensive is pursued.
Video of 4th Division units mobilizing for operations:
مقطع فيديو يظهر قوات الفرقة الرابعة التي توجهت إلى #درعا البلد صباح اليوم.
من الواضح أن النظام يستغل الاتفاق لفرض سيطرة مطلقة على درعا، وتنفيذ اقتحام "بارد" ينهي الوضع القديم#الحرية_لدرعا pic.twitter.com/8lbBqHpyiZ
— أحمد أبازيد (@abazeid89) July 27, 2021