Bread runs out in Daraa Al-Balad as regime tightens siege
Bakeries in the besieged southern Syrian city of Daraa Al-Balad have turned off their ovens due to a shortage of wheat as the Assad regime continues its month-and-a-half blockade on the area, residents told The New Arab on Monday.
The Syrian regime began its siege on Daraa Al-Balad on 24 June after the city's residents rejected the results of Syria's presidential election in May. The election has been roundly condemned by the international community for being fraudulent.
Though roads leading into Daraa Al-Balad - home to about 50,000 - had been cut off by regime forces and its allied militias, bakeries have so far managed to subsist off wheat stored or smuggled in.
Three days ago, the supply of wheat finally ran out and bakeries were forced to shutter. Bread has now joined the ranks of other essential supplies - such as medicine and water - which are scarce to come by.
"I'm subsisting off of essentials I had stored in the pantry before the siege began - but they won't last me for more than four or five days," Reema [not her real name], a widow and mother living in Daraa al-Balad, told The New Arab.
"Nothing is allowed into the city, and the humanitarian situation is terrible. My children and I are living in a nightmare," Reema said.
On 27 July, regime forces and its allied militias attempted to storm the city, but were rebuffed by residents. Fighting has escalated since then, with the regime continually shelling the city with artillery, and local opposition fighters have captured a number of government security checkpoints and the soldiers manning them.
Fighting has displaced up to 18,000 people, according to the UN, fleeing to surrounding areas where they have taken shelter in mosques and schools.
At least 52 people were killed in Daraa in July, among them 11 children and two women, according to local human rights monitor, Daraa Martyrs Documentation Office.
The UN has called for an immediate ceasefire to "alleviate the suffering of civilians in Daraa" and for "unimpeded access for humanitarian relief".
Russian-mediated negotiations have continued sporadically between the regime and the negotiations committee appointed to represent the city after the regime re-took Daraa province in 2018.
On 24 July, a deal was struck between the two sides. The residents of Daraa al-Balad would hand over a number of light weaponry and allow the regime to install three security checkpoints within the city in exchange for the regime lifting of the siege, withdrawing its forces from the city, and disbanding local militias which it backs.
However, the deal fell apart after the regime claimed the weapons turned over were unsatisfactory and raised the number of security checkpoints it wanted to install in the city from three to ten. Regime soldiers and allied militias attempted to storm the city a few days later.
Since then, negotiations have not budged, despite the Russians bringing both parties to the table several times, most recently on Sunday.
Daraa's negotiation committee has requested that regime checkpoints within the city are staffed by soldiers from the eighth brigade, which is made up of residents from Daraa who have received a "settled status", a form of conditional pardon, from the regime.
The regime has refused the request of the committee and insists on increasing the number of checkpoints throughout residential areas in Daraa Al-Balad and staff them with soldiers from divisions of their choice.
In the past, the regime has relied heavily on the 4th armoured division in Daraa, leading to deep resentment from local residents who see the Iranian-affiliated force as a foreign intrusion.
While negotiations stall, however, residents in Daraa Al-Balad suffer.
"In the day they negotiate, and at night they bomb us," said Reema.