Syria assault in Deraa intensifies as thousands continue to flee
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are intensifying their offensive over key rebel-held towns in the southern province of Deraa, as thousands of people continue to flee the area, witnesses tell.
Clashes broke out on Tuesday between pro-government forces, which have amassed on the outskirts of the town of Basr al-Harir, as fighting between the two sides escalated.
"At least 200 air strikes and 150 barrel bombs targeted Basr al-Harir this morning as government forces moved in on the village," said Jihad Hamza, a pro-opposition activist in Deraa.
"Rebel fighters are organising themselves to push back the assault," he added.
At least 45,000 people have fled intensified fighting in the southern Deraa province towards Jordan, according to the United Nations.
Syrian government forces launched the military push on June 19 aiming to retake the southern provinces of Deraa, Quneitra and parts of Sweida, still mostly held by opposition fighters.
Since then, at least 41 people have been killed and more than 100 others were wounded, according to Lawrence Adam, a journalist with the activist-run Nabaa media group in the suburbs of Deraa.
"At least 27 of those killed were civilians, including five children and nine women," Adam told on Monday.
Issuing an urgent call for action, Adam said the civilians are fleeing to camps and villages along the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights "where little is available".
"If the international community doesn't respond quickly, we're going to be facing a disaster soon," said Adam.
On Thursday, the United Nations warned that escalation in Syria's south could have dangerous repercussions for the estimated 750,000 civilians in the area.