Syrian regime forces have escalated their attacks on the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood in southwestern Syria in the past two weeks in an attempt to take control of the city center, according to local sources.
Since July 29, the Bashar al-Assad regime and Iranian-backed militias have launched a ground operation in the neighborhood, triggering clashes that spread across the countryside.
Daraa al-Balad was blockaded by regime forces on June 25 after residents, including former members of the Syrian opposition, resisted an order to surrender their light weapons and allow regime forces to search houses in the area.
On Aug. 3, the Horan Freedoms Community, a group founded by activists and journalists from Daraa, said the Assad forces demanded during Russian-led mediation talks between the regime and opposition forces that both residents and armed opposition groups surrender all their light weapons, search the houses, and set up nine checkpoints in the neighborhood.
The demands, however, were rejected by the Daraa-based Reconciliation Center which was negotiating on behalf of the residents, prompting the regime to conduct fresh attacks on the besieged city.
As the Syrian regime continues to bombard Daraa in violation of the 2018 Russian-mediated deal, Moscow has remained mum.
In 2018, Russia and the Syrian regime signed a deal under which thousands of rebels and civilians were given a safe passage to other rebel-held regions while they launched an attack in Daraa.
Armed with light weapons, opposition groups and residents in the city center are trying to resist the regime’s entry into the neighborhood, the local sources said.
Daraa, known as the birthplace of the Syrian revolution, is home to some 40,000 people and was an opposition stronghold until 2018.
A member of the Reconciliation Center who spoke to the Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to security concerns said talks between the regime and residents continue to be stalled but noted that Russia is keen to play a more active role.
"There is information leaked to us that Russia will be more active in these talks in the coming days,” he said. “We insist on protecting the safety and dignity of the families. While we want the blockade to be lifted and our people to be left alone, they (the regime) attempt to enter the neighborhood,” he added.
Due to the regime siege imposed on the city, the neighborhood’s only bakery has been forced out of service due to lack of flour supply and fuel shortage.
Many civilians have been forced to move to other relatively safer neighborhoods while others have been using the flour in their stores to bake their own bread.
"This bakery was the only bakery that met the needs of the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood,” Abu Muhammad, who is in charge of the bakery, told Anadolu Agency.
“We were making bread for approximately 11,000 families here. But due to the siege, flour is not allowed into our neighborhood and we urgently need flour support,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Human Rights Network (SNHR), a Paris-based NGO which documents rights violations against Syrian civilians, said in a report that 11 civilians, including five children and a woman, were killed in Syrian regime attacks on Daraa between June 23 and Aug. 9. It also noted that 104 individuals, including two children and two women, were arrested during the same time.
Syria has been ravaged by civil war since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.