Thousands of displaced Syrians in Daraa have taken advantage of the tenuous ceasefire in the region to return to their homes following significant gains made by the loyalist forces.
The situation in the southern Syrian province of Daraa is developing rapidly. Over the course of the past week, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) gained control of nearly the entirety of eastern Daraa including strategic towns such as Bosra al-Sham and the border-town of Nassib.
The United Nations estimates that the SAA operations, which were dubbed Operation Basalt and first started in late-June, have displaced some 320,000 people. Many of these people, likely expecting clashes that mirror the intensity of those in Aleppo City and East Ghouta, have taken refuge along the Jordanian Border, as well as near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. With both Jordan and Israel refusing to let in these displaced Syrians, the humanitarian conditions along the border have deteriorated rapidly in recent days.
While some areas of the province have experienced heavy fighting, some Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions have surrendered relatively quickly. Although some of these surrenders came as a result of intense fighting and shelling of rebel-held towns and villages, others came as a result of the rebel factions agreeing to enter into “reconciliation”. In return for the rebels agreeing to surrender and accept amnesty (or be evacuated elsewhere), the Russian Government has agreed to provide security in formerly rebel-held towns and permit displaced residents to return. Since then, a tenuous ceasefire has taken hold in the region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reports that many displaced residents have taken advantage of the ceasefire and the relative lack of destruction in the region to return to their homes. According to the SOHR, thousands of Syrians have returned to their homes in the eastern countryside since the ceasefire was implemented. However, the SOHR also noted that a large number of Syrians remain displaced due to fears of being targeted by revenge attacks or be arrested once the Russian Military Police hand security over to the Syrian Police.
However, those who remain displaced are running out of options. Over the course of Monday, more towns and villages along the Jordanian Border have agreed to surrender, allowing loyalist forces to take near-complete control of the Syria-Jordan Border except for a small sliver of land ruled by the ISIS-affiliated Jaish Khalid Ibn al-Walid. These gains have put the rebel-held districts of Daraa City under siege and left western Daraa and Quneitra as the only rebel-held areas.
The ceasefire in the western countryside, meanwhile, remains delicate. Although towns such as Tafas appear to have agreed to surrender, others have rejected the conditions offered so far. Numerous clashes were reported between these negotiations, with both sides blaming each other for the breach of the ceasefire.