EU Voices Concern over ‘Humanitarian Consequences’ of Regime Offensive in South Syria
The European Union expressed on Friday concern over the "devastating humanitarian consequences" in southern Syria as the regime continued its push in the region despite international warnings.
The EU's diplomatic arm called for protecting civilians and allowing humanitarian access to Daraa province where it said the Bashar Assad regime, backed by Russia and Iran, has started an offensive.
Artillery and air strikes "are causing the civilian population to flee towards the border with Jordan and with potentially devastating humanitarian consequences," a spokesperson warned.
The statement quoted the United Nations as saying the attacks endangered more than 750,000 civilians in the area that borders Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The assault was taking place in a "de-escalation zone" that is supposed to be protected by the guarantors of the Astana peace talks.
"The Astana guarantors are bound to ensure cessation of hostilities in these zones as a matter of priority and they are expected to deliver on this commitment," the External Action Service said.
"All necessary measures to protect civilian lives as well as unhindered, safe and sustainable humanitarian access need to be ensured," it added.
Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida are included in a "de-escalation zone" agreed by the United States, Russia and neighbor Jordan last year.
The US has warned of "serious repercussions" for anyone violating the de-escalation agreement in place since last July.
In spite of these warnings, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 12 barrel bombs hit Daraa, in the first use of the rudimentary and non-discriminatory weapons there in over a year when a truce went into effect in the area.
The Observatory said 16 people have been killed in regime strikes since Tuesday, including nine children. At least 12,000 people have been displaced by fighting in the area since, according to the war monitor.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that Washington was "deeply troubled" by the regime operations in the area and called on Moscow to "restrain" its ally from further actions that risk broadening the conflict.