'Atmosphere of war' in Daraa as grace period ends
By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo
With the conclusion of the grace period during which youth in former opposition-held areas were required to settle their status with the Syrian regime, an atmosphere of defiance prevails in Daraa province, a local activist said.
The grace period for the settlement of status began with the commencement of the reconciliation process one year ago, and has now concluded, Daraa activist Jumaa al-Masalma told Diyaruna.
The reconciliation agreement called on armed opposition groups in Daraa to hand over their weapons and relinquish control of the province to the Syrian regime and its affiliated militias.
This process has been marred by violence, however, with a recent rise in the number of attacks and assassinations targeting regime forces in the province triggering a regime military reinforcement in various areas.
According to al-Masalma, "an atmosphere of war prevails in the province".
There has been heightened tension in recent weeks with the return of demonstrations, attacks on regime checkpoints and assassinations, he said.
Meanwhile, he added, the regime has not upheld its stated commitment to stop arrests, settle the status of former opposition fighters and repair the province's failing infrastructure.
Situation is escalating
"The situation in Daraa is headed towards escalation," al-Masalma said, noting that the regime is building up its military presence and has brought in its 4th Armoured Division, led by the Syrian president's brother, Maher al-Assad.
Regime violations of the reconciliation agreement have been met with anger that culminated in the defection of dozens of former opposition elements who had joined the regime's army as a result of the agreement, he said.
They took positions in the city of al-Sanamayn and barred regime forces from the area, which led to fierce clashes between the two sides, al-Masalma said.
Al-Sanamayn remains in the hands of opposition elements, he said, though the regime has laid siege to the city.
Activists in the region have maintained a count of the regime's violations of the reconciliation agreement over the past year, al-Masalma said.
They claim 349 civilians have been arrested, including a number of women and children, along with 285 former opposition fighters.
A large number of people have died under torture, according to the activists, and there have been 125 assassination attempts that left 73 people dead.