As Syrian army gain ground, new humanitarian crisis looms

An advance by Syrian government forces into east Daraa has already displaced more than 160,000 people.
By Rick Docksai | Nov 16, 2018
More than 160,000 Syrians have fled their homes in Syria's southwest, in the face of an assault by Syrian government forces on rebel-held areas in East Daraa. Government forces have retaken several towns in the region after a week of fighting that a senior UN official warned may bring on a humanitarian crisis worse than that which followed the siege of Aleppo.

The fighting also essentially rips up a ceasefire agreement that Russia, the United States, and Jordan had brokered last year. That agreement designated the area around Daraa a "de-escalation" zone and forbade Syria's military or the rebel groups it is fighting from combat within it. The US deputy ambassador to the UN, Jonathan Cohen, said that the latest Syrian assault is driving into the zone with support from Iranian militias and Russian air power.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special envoy for Syria, told the UN's security council that the attack could be as lethal as the sieges of Aleppo and eastern Goutha combined. He warned that as many as 750,000 civilian lives altogether are at risk.

Refugees have flooded checkpoints at Daraa's borders with Jordan and Israel, but neither country is allowing them passage. Jan Egeland, a humanitarian adviser to the UN, said that he is urging Jordan to open its border to those fleeing the warfare.

"I hesitate, in a way, to ask a small and poor county, who has more than a million Syrians on their soil, to take more," he said. "But I have to do it, because these are women, children, civilians, who have no other place to flee if they are to escape the war zone." Israel should also be asked to offer refuge, he said.

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