Civilians stuck as Daraa fighting rages on


October 1, 2013

October 1, 2013

By Abdulrahman al-Masri and Kristen Gillespie

AMMAN: The refugee crisis is worsening in south Syria’s Daraa province fighting intensifies between the FSA and the regime’s army, pushing civilians south toward tightened borders with Jordan.

A “large number” of people are displaced inside the province, says Human Rights Watch researcher Lama Fakih, who added that HRW is unable to access the area to determine an exact number. “According to our reports, there is not enough food for these people and doctors face hardships reaching them.”

A fresh battle for the town of Tafas has further driven Syrian civilians from their homes, activists say. Blocked from heading anywhere but south by regime forces, thousands of the internally displaced are congregating at points close to the Syrian border.

“The Jordanian government says that its borders are open, but our reporters are saying that the border is closed and only opens in emergencies,” said Fakih.

In Tafas, the FSA has captured at least two checkpoints at the entrance of the town, and now hold the west, north and south of it, said Nayef al-Sari from the Daraa Media Office, who has a reporter embedded with the rebels in Tafas. “Fighting is still ongoing east of the town at the [regime’s] Agrar military-training center,” al-Sari said.

Tafas is an agricultural town, known for its tomato crops. The regime had controlled the town and not allowed produce to leave for rebel-held areas, contributing to their diminished food supply. If Tafas is captured by rebels, it will open a pathway between two FSA-controlled towns, Dael and Mezirib, as it is situated between them.

The scope of humanitarian need in Daraa, and areas under rebel control in particular, is not clear, Fakih said, “because the Syrian government is preventing the UN and other organizations from reaching these areas and providing aid.”

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