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Syrian assault flouts, supported by the US, stop the fire and unleash new excesses

BEIRUT, Lebanon – An attack by the Syrian government on one of the country's last rebel areas has displaced 160,000 people from their homes in southwestern Syria, violated a US-backed ceasefire, and routed Israel and Jordan

government forces Syrian and Russian air strikes and barrel bombs have rolled through several cities in eastern Dara Province over the past week, triggering the recent humanitarian catastrophe of the seven-year war and launching the war government one step closer to consolidation control of the country.

The attack has negotiated a brittle ceasefire negotiated last year by Russia, Jordan and the United States, the main peacekeeping achievement of the Trump government in Syria

states that have about 2,000 troops in Syria Russia publicly criticized because it broke the agreement, but it did little to enforce it, by withdrawing from its initial warnings about the war, "Serious consequences" for ceasefire violations and leaving Southern rebels and civilians largely on themselves.

"The Americans have left us," said Mohammed, 30, a Dara'a resident who had evacuated his home in the eastern countryside to dodge the air strikes, and who asked not to completely avoid the reprisals of the Government are identified. "They put us in the bloody swamp and left us, we face the worst scenario."

The battle has the potential to be dangerous beyond the borders of Syria. The pressure on Jordan is increasing, which could take in hundreds of thousands of refugees at risk of destabilizing the country. And the shadow war between Iran and Israel could escalate if Iranian-backed militias accompany Syrian troops to the Israeli border.

Dara & # 39; a is the place where the Syrian uprising that overthrew President Bashar al-Assad began seven years ago, a multi-faceted civil war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced 12 million people. Over the past two years, government forces backed by the Russian Air Force and Iranian-backed ground forces have devastated a rebel bag at once, forcing draconian surrender and killing of civilians with continued sieges, air strikes, and chemical weapons. 19659008] The result in Dara & # 39; a is hardly doubtful. With Syrian government forces, supported by their Russian and Iranian allies, fighting an overwhelming rebel force that obviously has no outside support, the only question is how long will it take for Assad to hit the region and at what price? The Special Envoy The United Nations General for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned this week before the Security Council that the violence could even surpass even the bloodiest consequences of the war.

"If the Southwest experiences a sweeping battle to the end," he said, "It might look like East Aleppo and East Ghouta are being combined."

But unlike these clashes, it is in a geopolitically sensitive location, bordering both the Jordan and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

So far 98 civilians According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, 19 children have died. Airstrikes have punched out several local hospitals and killed medical staff. Another air raid hit a shelter on Thursday and killed five children. And the fighting threatens to close the Jordanian border crossing, which is the main humanitarian aid pipeline for millions of Syrians.

The number of fleeing the fighting has been estimated at 160,000 on Friday, but those who have tried to escape Jordan and Israel have found these borders sealed.

At the Jordanian border on Friday, some refugees had brought tents, but thousands slept in open fields in the stifling heat. There was no drinking water or medical help.

At least five children died after being bitten by scorpions, said Hussein al-Masaiid, who had suddenly left his home in the village of Taybeh with his wife and five children, that his children had no time to put on shoes. They went barefoot.

"Fights stand before us and have closed the borders behind us," said Massaiid exhausted in his voice. "Our misery is growing every minute, we do not know what's going to happen to us, the NGOs are not here, no one is helping us."

Jordan, which has already been hit by a Syrian refugee population of 1.3 million, has its limits against hundreds of thousands of civilians who are likely to find their way, provided with padlocks.

The United Nations Humanitarian Task Force for Syria, Jan Egeland, pleaded with Jordan on Thursday to give the Syrians refuge again.

"There is no other place to go," he said.

On Thursday, the UN said it was forced to hold convoys bringing relief from Jordan to Syria because of the fighting.

At the Golan Heights, controlled by Israel, several thousand refugees shelter in camps along the border, "often without access to water, electricity, food, or other basic necessities," the Israeli military said. Israel said Friday it had distributed humanitarian aid overnight to four locations in the Golan Heights, including 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby food, three pallets of paramedics, equipment and medicine and 30 tons of clothing and shoes [19659013] "We are watching closely the events in southern Syria," wrote Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday on Twitter . "We will ensure that the security interests of the State of Israel are protected and, as always, we will be prepared to provide humanitarian aid to civilians, women and children, but we will not allow a single Syrian refugee into our territory."

Maybe the greater risk to Israel of the Iran-backed militias that He fought alongside Assad's forces and will join the advance to the Golan frontier, a prospect that Israel will not tolerate. Israel has largely stayed out of the war, but it has carried out several attacks on Iranian assets in Syria.

Several analysts said they believed Israel had negotiated a deal with Syria, with Russia as mediator, Iranian-backed militia and fighters from Hezbollah, the Iranian-oriented group in Lebanon, away from the border. However, such an agreement has not been publicly confirmed.

"Ideologically, neither Iran nor Hezbollah will abandon the idea of ​​confronting Israel," said Haytham Mouzahem, director of the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies. "But in reality, Iran may bow to Russian pressure" to bypass the border.

But the analysts say that it would be less than surprising if the Iranians were to move south despite a Russia-Israel. Englisch: www.germnews.de/archive/gn/1995/12/21.html Israel and Jordan, two American associations, could engage the United States and other foreign powers in diplomatic negotiations again, analysts said

"They do not want the crisis in Jordan, they do not want a flare-up between Israel and the Iranians and a regional war So the US could be very diplomatic, "said Century Foundation Fellow Aron Lund and Syria's analyst. Diplomacy could freeze the fighting, help those displaced by the violence, and possibly prevent further tensions between Iran and Israel. But it is hard to imagine that an agreement will not hand the region over to Mr Assad.

The United States has withdrawn from the crisis. Only two weeks ago, the Americans promised "serious consequences" if the ceasefire was violated. However, after the Syrian and Russian forces began to bombard, the US did not advise the southern rebels, whom they had supported until recently, to expect military intervention.

In an SMS to rebel commanders after the start of the offensive, American officials told them while facing the onslaught, "You should not base your decision on the acceptance or expectation of military intervention by us."

Talks between Russia, Jordan and the rebels aimed to convince the rebels led to two temporary ceasefires Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory

It was unclear if there were other behind-the-scenes negotiations. The State Department said it has no comment on diplomatic talks.

The reality, analysts say, is that the Syrian government has used the truce and de-escalation zones to squeeze the rebels from one pocket to the other while keeping the others quiet and breaking the agreement whenever it's ready to pick up another enclave.

Dara & # 39; a, whose truce was confirmed by presidents Trump and Putin in Vietnam in November, is no different. And the pattern is likely to be repeated in Idlib province, the other remaining rebel stronghold, where Turkish monitors are patrolling another so-called de-escalation business.

In Dara & # 39; a there were reports that city dwellers had sought an agreement with themselves. The government has been fending off violence in recent days, but the rebels refused to ratify them

. Massaiid, who lives with his family in an animal house near the Jordanian border, said he would like to settle for Assad if it ended the fighting.

"I would like to lead a normal life with my children," he said. "I have no problem with the government."

Karam Shoumali reported from Berlin, Gardiner Harris from Washington and David M. Halbfinger from Jerusalem.

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