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23:15, 29 June 2018

Syrian Assault Flouts U.S.-Backed Cease-Fire and Sets Off New Exodus

Syrian Assault Flouts U.S.-Backed Cease-Fire and Sets Off New Exodus

Syrian Assault Flouts U.S.-Backed Cease-Fire and Sets Off New Exodus

Smoke rises above opposition-held places of Dara&rsquoa Province in the course of airstrikes by Syrian government forces on Tuesday.CreditMohamad Abazeed/Agence France-Presse &mdash Getty Pictures

By Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad

BEIRUT, Lebanon &mdash A Syrian government assault on 1 of the nation&rsquos last two rebel-held territories has driven 160,000 individuals from their houses across southwestern Syria, violating a United States-backed cease-fire and threatening to entangle Israel and Jordan in the conflict.

Government troops, backed by Syrian and Russian airstrikes and barrel bombs, have steamrollered via many towns in eastern Dara&rsquoa Province more than the previous week, setting off the most current humanitarian calamity in the seven-year war and moving the government a step closer to consolidating handle over the country.

The attack has ripped up a brittle cease-fire negotiated last year by Russia, Jordan and the United States, the Trump administration&rsquos principal peacekeeping achievement in Syria.

The United States, which has about two,000 troops in Syria, has publicly criticized Russia for breaking the deal but has done small to enforce it, retreating from its initial warnings of &ldquoserious repercussions&rdquo for cease-fire violations and leaving southern rebels and civilians largely on their personal.

&ldquoThe Americans abandoned us,&rdquo stated Muhammad, 30, a Dara&#x27a resident who had evacuated his residence in the eastern countryside to dodge the airstrikes, and who asked not to be completely identified for worry of reprisals from the government. &ldquoThey place us in the bloody swamp and left us. We&rsquore facing the worst situation.&rdquo

The battle has the potential to reverberate dangerously beyond Syria&rsquos borders. Stress is mounting on Jordan to take in what could quantity to hundreds of thousands of refugees, at risk of destabilizing the country. And the shadow war in between Iran and Israel could escalate if Iranian-backed militias accompany Syrian forces to the Israeli border.

Dara&#x27a is exactly where the Syrian uprising to topple President Bashar al-Assad very first erupted seven years ago, setting off a multifaceted civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced 12 million people. Over the previous two years, government forces supported by Russian air power and Iranian-backed ground forces have mowed down a single rebel-held pocket at a time, forcing draconian surrenders and killing civilians with prolonged sieges, airstrikes and chemical weapons.

Syrian rebel fighters in Dara&rsquoa Province last week.CreditMohamad Abazeed/Agence France-Presse &mdash Getty Pictures

The outcome in Dara&#x27a is hardly in doubt. With Syrian government forces, backed by their Russian and Iranian allies, battling an overmatched rebel force with no apparent outdoors help, the only query is how lengthy it will take the region to fall to Mr. Assad and at what cost.

The United Nations envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned the Safety Council this week that the violence could outstrip even the bloodiest episodes of the war.

&ldquoIf the southwest sees a full-scale battle to the finish,&rdquo he stated, &ldquoit could be like eastern Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta combined together.&rdquo

But as opposed to these clashes, this one particular lies in a geopolitically delicate location, abutting each Jordan and the Israel-controlled Golan Heights.

So far, 98 civilians have died, like 19 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor based in Britain. Airstrikes have punched out several neighborhood hospitals and killed medical personnel. An additional airstrike hit a shelter on Thursday, killing 5 children. And the fighting threatens to shut the Jordan border crossing that is the principal conduit for humanitarian aid to millions of Syrians.

The quantity fleeing the fighting rose to 160,000 on Friday, the United Nations estimated Friday, but these who have attempted to escape to Jordan and Israel have identified those borders sealed.

At the Jordanian border on Friday, some refugees had brought tents but thousands were sleeping in the smothering heat in open fields. There was no drinking water or medical help.


A child was rescued from the rubble of a broken developing soon after Syrian government and Russian airstrikes in the rebel-held town of Nawa, in Dara&rsquoa Province, on Tuesday.CreditAhmad Al-Msalam/Agence France-Presse &mdash Getty Images

At least five kids died soon after getting bitten by scorpions, stated Hussein al-Massaiid, who had left his house in the village of Taybeh with his wife and 5 kids so all of a sudden that his young children had no time to place on shoes. They left barefoot.

&ldquoBattles are in front of us, and closed borders behind us,&rdquo Mr. Massaiid stated, exhaustion in his voice. &ldquoOur misery is growing each and every minute. We don&rsquot know what&rsquos going to take place to us. The N.G.O.s aren&rsquot here. No one is assisting us.&rdquo

Jordan, already strained by a Syrian refugee population of 1.3 million, has padlocked its border against the hundreds of thousands of civilians expected to come its way.

The head of the United Nations humanitarian task force for Syria, Jan Egeland, pleaded with Jordan on Thursday to once again provide refuge to Syrians.

&ldquoThere is no other spot to go,&rdquo he said.

On Thursday, the United Nations said it had been forced to halt convoys carrying relief from Jordan to Syria since of the fighting.

At the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, several thousand refugees are sheltering in tent camps along the border, &ldquooften lacking access to water, electrical energy, sources of meals or other fundamental necessities,&rdquo the Israeli military mentioned.

On Friday, Israel stated it had distributed humanitarian aid overnight to 4 places in the Golan Heights, which includes 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby food, 3 pallets of healthcare equipment and medicine and 30 tons of clothing and footwear.

&ldquoWe&rsquore closely monitoring the turn of events in southern Syria,&rdquo Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on Twitter on Friday. &ldquoWe will make sure to safeguard the State of Israel&rsquos security interests. Like often, we will be willing to extend any humanitarian aid to civilians, women and young children, but we will not admit a single Syrian refugee into our territory.&rdquo

Possibly the larger risk for Israel is that Iranian-backed militias, who have been fighting alongside Mr. Assad&rsquos forces, will join the advance toward the Golan border, a prospect Israel will not tolerate. Israel has largely stayed out of the war, but it has carried out numerous attacks on what it says are Iranian assets in Syria.

A number of analysts said they believed that Israel has been negotiating a deal with Syria, with Russia as an intermediary, to preserve Iranian-backed militias and fighters from Hezbollah, the Iranian-aligned group primarily based in Lebanon, away from the border. But such an agreement has not been publicly confirmed.

&ldquoIdeologically, neither Iran nor Hezbollah will relinquish the concept of confronting Israel,&rdquo said Haytham Mouzahem, the director of the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies. &ldquoBut in actual terms, Iran may bow to Russian pressure&rdquo to steer clear of the border.

However analysts say it would be much less than surprising if Iranians turned out to be amongst the fighters moving south in spite of any Russia-Israel agreement, probably posing as Syrian troops.

The mushrooming pressures on Israel and Jordan, two American allies, could draw the United States and other foreign powers back into diplomatic negotiations, analysts said.

&ldquoThey don&rsquot want a crisis in Jordan, they don&rsquot want a flare-up in between Israel and the Iranians and a regional war, so the U.S. could extremely properly get involved diplomatically,&rdquo stated Aron Lund, a Century Foundation fellow and Syria analyst. Diplomacy could freeze the fighting, aid these displaced by the violence and possibly head off more tensions in between Iran and Israel. But it is difficult to think about an agreement that does not cede the area to Mr. Assad.


A property burned soon after an airstrike by Syrian government forces on the town of Busra al-Harir in Dara&rsquoa Province on Sunday.CreditMohamad Abazeed/Agence France-Presse &mdash Getty Images

The United States has backed away from the crisis. As not too long ago as two weeks ago, the Americans promised &ldquoserious repercussions&rdquo if the cease-fire was violated. However following Syrian and Russian forces began bombing, the United States privately advised the southern rebels whom they had until recently funded not to count on a military intervention.

In a text message sent to rebel commanders right after the offensive began, American officials told them that as they faced the onslaught, &ldquoyou ought to not base your decision on the assumption or expectation of military intervention by us.&rdquo

Talks among Russia, Jordan and the rebels aimed at coaxing the rebels to surrender resulted in two temporary truces on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory.

It was unclear regardless of whether there have been other negotiations behind the scenes. The State Department said it had no comment on diplomatic conversations.

The reality, analysts say, is that the Syrian government has exploited the cease-fires and so-named de-escalation zones to squeeze the rebels from one pocket at a time even though the other people remain quiet, breaking the agreement whenever it is prepared to choose off yet another enclave.

Dara&#x27a, whose cease-fire was reaffirmed by Presidents Trump and Putin in Vietnam in November, has been no various. And the pattern is likely to be repeated in Idlib Province, the other remaining rebel stronghold, where Turkish monitors patrol another so-called de-escalation deal.

In Dara&#x27a, there have been reports that townspeople have sought an agreement with the government to head off violence in recent days, but the rebels refused to ratify it.

Mr. Massaiid, who is living in an animal shed close to the Jordanian border with his loved ones, stated he would gladly settle for life under Mr. Assad if it would end the fighting.

&ldquoI want to live a typical life with my young children,&rdquo he stated. &ldquoI have no dilemma with the government.&rdquo

Karam Shoumali contributed reporting from Berlin, Gardiner Harris from Washington, and David M. Halbfinger from Jerusalem.

Associated Coverage

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Published at Fri, 29 Jun 2018 21:38:36 +0000

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