By Muhammed Misto and Omer Koparan
ANKARA, Turkey / DARAA, Syria
Tens of thousands of civilians have fled Syria’s southwestern Daraa province toward Israel-occupied Golan Heights following attacks by regime forces and Iran-backed Shia militias.
On June 20, regime forces and allied militias began a wide-scale military operation toward civilian areas in the opposition-held Daraa province.
According to Anadolu Agency correspondents in Daraa, thousands of families began to flee towards Daraa’s northern and eastern countryside near the borderline following the attacks.
Aerial images taken by Anadolu Agency showed families while trying to protect themselves from the heat by building flimsy tents as the area is not a residential region.
Women and children make the majority of civilians fleeing the area, as they all have difficulty finding accommodation and drinkable water.
"We fled with our children. We are trying to survive here under the sun without food or water,” Om Fatma, a 45-year-old civilian, told Anadolu Agency. “We have nothing around us. We have escaped here to avoid fighter jets flying over us."
She appealed to NGOs to provide urgent help to the fleeing civilians.
"We want them to help us. We want tents to protect ourselves from the sun. There is no water to drink. We seek aid to pull ourselves together,” she said.
Abu Muhammed, another Syrian civilian, said they fled the area to avoid being killed in regime attacks.
"Children, elderly, and everyone else are here at the border. They are here because of the attacks. Hopefully the opposition prevents regime forces from advancing into the area,” he said.
Separately, sources speaking on the condition of anonymity due to security concerns said high-ranking Jordanian officials have warned the opposition against moving towards Jordan’s border with Syria.
According to the sources, Jordanian officials warned that any crowds approaching the border would be perceived as a threat.
As part of Astana process, Daraa was one of the de-escalation zones that was established in May 2017 by guarantor countries Turkey, Iran and Russia.
Later in July, the U.S. and Russia reached an agreement to declare Daraa a “de-escalation zone”.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, according to the UN.