More than 120,000 civilians have been uprooted by a Syrian army offensive in the south-west since it began last week, a war monitor has said, and a senior UN official warned of catastrophe as they risked being trapped between warring sides.
The offensive has killed at least 98 civilians, including 19 children
Israel and Jordan say they will not let refugees in
The US has not reacted to the attacks despite earlier warning of “serious repercussions”
Government forces and their allies appeared to be making significant gains in eastern Daraa province, where state media said they marched into several towns.
A rebel official said opposition front lines had collapsed.
The Russian-backed offensive has killed at least 98 civilians, including 19 children, since June 19, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It has also driven tens of thousands of people towards the border with Jordan and thousands more to the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the UK-based monitor said.
PHOTO: Around 120,000 have fled the province so far. (AP: Nabaa Media)
Israel and Jordan — which is already hosting 650,000 Syrians — say they will not let refugees in.
“We left under bombardment, barrel bombs, (air strikes by) Russian and Syrian warplanes,” said Abu Khaled al-Hariri, 36, who fled from al-Harak town to the Golan frontier with his wife and five children.
“We are waiting for God to help us, for tents, blankets, mattresses, aid for our children to eat and drink.”
Concern this could be ‘repetition of Eastern Ghouta’
YOUTUBE: A video posted by the Nawa Media Office reportedly shows smoke from an airstrike in Nawa, north-west of Daraa.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said there was a grave risk of many civilians being trapped between government forces, rebel groups and Islamic State militants who have a small foothold there, an outcome he said would be a “catastrophe”.
The significance of Eastern Ghouta
What is it about Eastern Ghouta that has made its population the victims of such frequent and vicious attacks?
“The real concern is that we are going to see a repetition of what we saw in eastern Ghouta — the bloodshed, the suffering, the civilians being held, being under a siege,” UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said.
Syrian Government forces backed by Russian air power have turned their focus to the rebel-held south-west since defeating the last remaining besieged insurgent pockets, including eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.
The assault has so far targeted Daraa, not rebel-held parts of nearby Quneitra province at the Golan frontier which are more sensitive to Israel.
The campaign has shattered a “de-escalation” deal negotiated by the United States, Russia and Jordan that had mostly contained fighting in the south-west since last year.
President Bashar al-Assad pressed ahead with the offensive despite US condemnations and warnings of “serious repercussions”.
Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.
VIDEO: Smoke rises over buildings in Daraa (Photo: Nabaa Media via AP) (ABC News)
The United States has told rebels not to expect military support against the assault.
The chief Syrian opposition negotiator Nasr al-Hariri on Thursday decried “US silence” over the offensive and said only a “malicious deal” could explain the lack of a US response.
The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump will have a detailed discussion about Syria when they meet in July.
Syrian government makes gains
PHOTO: The US has not reacted to the attacks despite earlier warning of “serious repercussions”. (AP: Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets)
The war has been going Mr Assad’s way since Russia intervened on his side in 2015, when he held just a fraction of the country.
Today he commands the single largest part of Syria, though much of the north and east is outside his control.
‘Cradle of the revolution’
After recapturing East Ghouta, the Syrian regime has its sights set on the last southern rebel enclave of Daraa. Will victory there be the final act of the Syrian war?
Syrian troops have seized a swathe of rebel territory north-east of Daraa city.
State TV broadcast scenes of what it said were locals celebrating the army’s arrival in the formerly rebel-held town of Ibta, where they said rebels were turning in their weapons.
State media said that Government forces seized al-Harak and Rakham towns, and that insurgents in four other towns agreed to surrender their weapons and make “reconciliation” deals with the Government.
“Most of the (people in) the eastern villages have fled to west Daraa and to Quneitra,” said Abu Shaima, a Free Syrian Army rebel spokesman.
Another rebel official said some towns were trying to negotiate deals with the state on their own.
“There was a collapse in the eastern front yesterday,” he added. “The front in Daraa city is steadfast.”
The seven-year war has already displaced 6 million people inside Syria and driven 5.5 million abroad as refugees, and killed hundreds of thousands of people.
YOUTUBE: Syria Civil Defence Daraa: Deadly Airstrikes Destroy Homes in Daraa
Israel, Jordan say no to refugees
Jordan reiterated its position that newly displaced Syrians must be helped inside Syria.
“Jordan has reached its capacity in receiving refugees,” Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told the pan-Arab broadcaster al-Jazeera late on Thursday.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, in an interview with Tel Aviv Radio 102FM, said: “I think we must prevent the entry of refugees from Syria to Israel, in the past we have prevented such cases.”
The Israeli military said an increased number of civilians had been spotted in refugee camps on the Syrian side of the Golan over the past few days, and that it had sent aid supplies at four locations overnight to people fleeing hostilities.
Footage released by the Israeli military on Friday showed a forklift truck unloading palettes with supplies that it said included 300 tents, 28 tonnes of food, medical equipment and medication, footwear and clothing.
Source: ABC News