Civilians flee southern Daraa amid fears of renewed fighting
By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo
Three weeks after the Syrian regime began its southern offensive, chaos and apprehension prevail in many parts of Daraa province, local activists said.
The province's southern rural areas are seeing a mass exodus of civilians as regime forces approach, amid reports of widespread looting in the eastern rural areas of Daraa since the regime and its allies took control, they said.
The flight from southern rural Daraa continues as fear spreads among civilians over possible renewed fighting, shelling and airstrikes, Daraa-based Free Syrian Army (FSA) officer Yasser al-Turkmani told Diyaruna.
Regime and allied militias have entered the rural area in the western part of the province, "particularly the towns of Tel Shihab and Zaizoun", he said.
Displaced civilians are not fleeing to one specific area, he said, but are heading for Qunaitra, Horan and the forested areas.
An exodus also is taking place from Yarmouk basin in the western part of the provincial capital of Daraa, which is controlled by "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) affiliate Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid, al-Turkmani said.
He estimated that at least 6,000 people had fled the two areas.
New alliance says it will fight
Fears over the eruption of fighting were renewed after a new alliance comprising 11 active factions in the region announced its formation, under the name of the Army of the South, al-Turkmani said.
This alliance remains outside the circle of reconciliations between the Russia-backed regime and opposition factions in other areas of Daraa, he said, and includes factions that moved from the province's eastern areas after rejecting the reconciliations.
"The Army of the South has declared a general mobilisation for fighting," he said.
Separately, activist Jumaa al-Masalma told Diyaruna there has been widespread looting of furniture and household appliances in parts of eastern rural Daraa since the regime and allied militias arrived.
This type of looting, known in Syria as "taafeesh", has been observed in most areas after the opposition withdraws, he said.
In Daraa, "it is particularly happening in the towns of Saida and Um al-Mayazin and towns on the route to the Nassib crossing.
Al-Masalma said the looting occurred after residents fled to escape airstrikes that targeted their towns, and before they were able to return to their homes.