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Fear and uncertainty among residents of al-Qunaytirah and Daraa, as end of “settlement agreement” approaches

A photo for a demonstration that took place in Daraa al-Balad - 13 January 2020 (Activists)

A photo for a demonstration that took place in Daraa al-Balad - 13 January 2020 (Activists)

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Tension is on the rise in southern Syrian between the residents of the area opposing the Syrian regime and the Syrian regime troops, who wrested control of the provinces of al-Qunaytirah and Daraa from the armed opposition factions a year and a half ago, as the expiration of the so-called “ settlement” agreement draws near.

During that period, the southern Syrian provinces of Daraa and al-Qunaytirah have experienced ongoing protests, assassinations, arrests, and mediation to keep the situation under control.

Lack of stability in southern Syria

The paper of the so-called “settlement” agreement, which allows the residents of the region to get through the military checkpoints of the al-Assad regime without accountability, will expire on 26 March. However, arrests have started to increase since the beginning of this year, in line with tighter security measures.

The assassinations of former leaders and elements of the opposition factions, supporters of the Syrian regime (mayors and dignitaries), and Iran and Hezbollah-affiliated figures in the region accelerated, amounting to over 20 assassinations, according to activists.

Since the start of this year, several demonstrations took place in some areas in Daraa and al-Qunaytirah—including the towns and cities of al-Ajami, Tel Shehab, al-Yadudah, Muzayrib, Zayzun, Tafas, al-Yadudah, al-Shajara, and Daraa al-Balad. The demonstrators chanted against the presence of Iranian militias and Hezbollah in the area and demanded the release of detainees. The demonstrators also chanted slogans against the Syrian regime.

A citizen from the western countryside of Daraa, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told Enab Baladi that these demonstrations represent “a message to the negotiating parties,” Russia and the Syrian regime, to abide by their pledges to the people of the region. They should preserve stability in the province of Daraa and halt prosecutions.

There were also threats of military operations in the area if the detainees were not released. The former leader of the Free Syrian Army, Adham al-Kurd, posted on his Facebook page, on 17 January, that the re-activation of the al-Bunyan al-Marsous Operations Room (BM) is not impossible.

Slogans and phrases that have been spread out across numerous cities and towns in the areas of the “settlement agreement,” are reminiscent of the slogans of the Syrian revolution and other anti-regime ones.

The Daraa dignitaries released a statement to fight kidnapping and murdering of their children.

The efforts made by the residents in some regions resulted in the release of several detainees, after months of promises and postponements, but that achievement was not enough.

Growing concern

There has been a spike in arrests and detentions of civilians and former opposition members, amounting to over 500 arrests in Daraa and al-Qunaytirah since the beginning of the “settlement” agreement in the region. In other words, there has been a clear violation of the cease-fire settlement agreement by the Syrian regime forces,” said a member of the Reconciliation Committee in al-Qunaytirah, who requested not to be identified for security reasons, to Enab Baladi.

The negotiation committees in Daraa and al-Qunaytirah exerted pressures on the Russian side and the heads of the security branches, but “only a small number of the new detainees have been released,” according to the member of the Reconciliation Committee in al-Qunaytirah.

The member added that the security authorities of the Syrian regime are failing to implement the terms of the “settlement” agreement by releasing the detainees or clarifying their fate.

The tightening security measures taken by the security authorities in the area before the end of the settlement agreement in March “raised concerns among citizens.”

The residents of the region are forced to adopt a wait-and-see attitude amid the promises made by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia to maintain stability in the area.

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