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Syria: Iran militias violate Daraa ceasefire

August 16, 2021 at 1:45 pm

Syrian government soldiers in Daraa, Syria on 7 July 2018 [YOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad and the opposition in the southern province of Daraa agreed on a ceasefire deal brokered by Russia on Saturday, potentially halting the fighting over one of the last opposition-held areas in Syria.

Under the ceasefire, it was reportedly agreed that the Russian military would conduct patrols throughout the opposition-held district of Daraa Al-Balad and safeguard the ceasefire against violations by either side. It was also agreed that the Saraya crossing point, which leads in and out of the province, would be reopened for locals.

The truce’s stated aim was to last for two weeks, which would have allowed further talks to take place and provided the foundation for a long-term agreement. Opposition fighters who rejected living under the Assad regime rule were also due to be forcibly evicted from the province and transported to the opposition-held Idlib area in the north-west.

That ceasefire deal was violated only hours after it was agreed on, however, with both the regime forces and pro-Assad Iranian militias resuming the bombardment of the opposition areas as they have been doing for weeks until now.

According to the Arabic-language news outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the official spokesman of a Daraa negotiating committee Adnan Al-Musalama said the Iranian militias were the primary culprits in the violation of the ceasefire because they did not agree with it or how it would affect their plans.

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“It seems that the Iranian militias didn’t like the agreement and ceasefire, which was announced today in Daraa and want to violate it,” Al-Musalama said. They intend to “work hard to ruin this agreement” as it would effectively “end the Iranian project in the area,” he claimed.

While the regime and its allied militias continued their bombardment of Daraa Al-Balad, “those defending it and their civilian families are adhering to the agreement and no violation on their part has been recorded,” Al-Musalama added.

The Saraya crossing has remained closed and blocked off by regime forces in order to prevent locals from escaping the area, despite Moscow’s assurances that it would reopen as part of the deal.

Since Al-Assad’s recapturing of Daraa in 2018, Russia acted as a mediator between the regime and the opposition, striking a deal which offered amnesty to former opposition fighters and implemented a reconciliation process.

But after three years of continuously violating that deal by torturing to death at least 98 former opposition fighters in the province and with Daraa residents refusing to vote in the presidential elections which were labelled “fraudulent“, Al-Assad turned on the province, his Fourth Division laid siege to Daraa Al-Balad for over a month and launched a full-on offensive.

To the opposition in Daraa, the violation of the ceasefire represents another failure on the part of Russia to act as a viable mediator in the conflict. At the beginning of this month, the opposition called on Turkey to replace Russia as the mediator in order to guarantee the protection of residents.

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