On June 24, 2021, Syrian regime forces began to tighten their restrictions at checkpoints surrounding the Daraa al Balad area, the Tareeq al Sadd neighborhood, and the camps in Daraa city, closing all roads leading to these areas from Daraa al Balad, except for the Sajna bridge road linking it to the Sajna neighborhood, on which there are three military checkpoints tasked with carrying out intensive inspections of anyone travelling along it. These areas were cordoned off after the Negotiations Committee of Daraa city rejected the request of the Russian guarantor on June 23, 2021, to ensure that 200 Kalashnikovs and 20 BKC machine guns were handed over to Syrian regime forces by the armed opposition factions which remained there after a settlement agreement was reached with Russia, and to allow the regime forces to Daraa al Balad and carry out an inspection campaign in the area. The closure of these routes was accompanied by overflights by Syrian regime warplanes which have hovered over the area at low altitudes, along with random gunfire by regime snipers, both intended to intimidate and spread terror among civilians.
On July 4, 2021, the Syrian regime closed the only remaining road leading to the Daraa al Balad area, the Tareeq al Sadd neighborhood and the camps, meaning that the area of approximately two square kilometers, which is inhabited by about 50,000 people, has been completely cut off and is besieged on all sides by Syrian regime forces, preventing any movement by residents to or from these areas.
Syrian Network for Human Rights notes that there is only one dispensary in the area which has only modest capabilities, and that the area lacks any specialist hospitals. We believe that the continuation of the siege in its current form portends a serious deterioration in the medical and health conditions of citizens and a potential humanitarian catastrophe, especially endangering the health of children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic diseases. A number of the residents who SNHR spoke with reported that there is already a significant increase in the prices of food and other supplies amid fears that supplies will be prevented from entering the area, which might prevent a large number of citizens there from obtaining them.
SNHR condemns the policy of siege and starvation practiced by the Syrian regime, which does not distinguish between vulnerable individuals like a child or an elderly person and a combatant, and which amounts to a form of collective punishment. We call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to issue an urgent statement condemning the Syrian regime’s policy of siege and starvation, as well as calling on the International Commission of Inquiry to conduct investigations on the potentially devastating impact that this could have on thousands of residents and displaced people.
Photo taken on June 27, 2021, shows the Syrian regime’s al Saraya checkpoint in Daraa city