BEIRUT: Thousands of civilians have fled regime bombardment on rebel-held areas in Syria’s southern province of Daraa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said Thursday.
“More than 12,000 civilians have fled their homes in the last three days after regime forces intensified their shelling and air strikes on eastern areas and villages of Daraa,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory.
The civilians fleeing areas including Al-Herak and Basr al-Harir were “heading to nearby villages under rebel control not affected by the bombardment near the Jordanian border” to the south.
The UN humanitarian coordination office reported that 2,500 people had fled one of these areas in the eastern countryside of the province as of Wednesday.
Opposition fighters control around two-thirds of Daraa but the regime holds a sliver of territory in the centre of the province, which borders Jordan.
The areas in eastern Daraa bombarded in recent days lie on a strip of land flanked by regime-held territory to the east and west.
State news agency SANA, using its customary term for rebels, said the army was shelling positions of “terrorists” in Al-Herak and Basr al-Harir on Thursday, and had killed a number of them.
After a string of military victories against rebels earlier this year near Damascus, the regime has set its sights on retaking rebel-held areas of southern Syria — whether through negotiations or a military operation.
In an interview with Iran’s Al-Alam television channel last week, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said contacts were ongoing between Russia, the US and Israel over the southern front.
Syria’s war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.—AFP