Assad has attacked a former opposition stronghold with missiles and artillery shelling in an attempt to crush a simmering insurrection, in an unprecedented development in Syria’s decade-long war.
The situation in Deraa deteriorated sharply when the local population decided to boycott May’s fraudulent general election, in which Assad was returned for another seven years in office with 95% of the vote. Regime soldiers began blocking roads and turning off water and power supplies to neighbourhoods home to about 50,000 people, leading to shortages in food and medicine.
“The escalation in Deraa al-Balad represents a breakdown of negotiations between the leaders of the ‘reconciled’ rebels and the regime, mediated by Russia,” said Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the Newlines Institute with extensive knowledge of southern Syria’s dynamics. “Assad is now implementing the ‘solution’ it wanted to impose on Deraa all along – forcing complete surrender and displacement of those who refuse to act as loyal subjects of the Syrian regime. Unless Russia intervenes to put an end to the fighting and broker a ceasefire, the fighting will result in even more civilian deaths and displacement, and likely the subjugation of Deraa al-Balad under full regime control.”