Syrian troops march south as UN warns of catastrophe

Syrian troops march south as UN warns of catastrophe
Smoke rises above opposition held areas of the city of Daraa during airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on June 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 29 June 2018

Syrian troops march south as UN warns of catastrophe

Syrian troops march south as UN warns of catastrophe

BEIRUT: The United Nations' human rights chief warned Friday of a "catastrophe" in southern Syria where government forces are on the offensive against insurgents forcing more people to flee their homes and live in miserable conditions in open areas close to the border with Jordan.
Syrian state TV said troops entered the main village of Ibtah in the southern province of Daraa after opposition gunmen handed over their weapons and asked to be included in an amnesty. They aired live footage showing government troops entering the village.
Syrian troops have been marching in the country's south, one of the last rebel-held areas in the country, under the cover of airstrikes and intense shelling.
The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said that besides Ibtah, rebels surrendered their weapons in the nearby villages of Tafas and Dael. Rebels in the villages of Umm al-Mayadeen, Naseeb, Saida and Tiba have also agreed to surrender, it said.
Opposition activists reported violence, even during a 12-hour truce that was reportedly brokered by Russia and Jordan and went into effect at midnight Thursday, saying more than 100,000 people have fled their homes since the government offensive began on June 19. The UN said earlier this week that some 50,000 people have been displaced, many of them heading toward the border with Jordan, which said it would keep its frontier closed to people fleeing.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called on all sides in the conflict to end the escalating violence in Daraa and avoid a repetition "of the bloodshed and suffering seen earlier this year" in eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus.
Zeid, a Jordanian prince, said there is a grave risk that the intensified fighting will see many civilians trapped, caught between government forces on the one hand and rebels and members of the Islamic State group on the other. Zeid said that his office received reports that civilians at some government checkpoints were only allowed through to Government-held areas for a fee.