A humanitarian disaster is unfolding in southern Syria, where hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing heavy fighting and finding borders locked tight. More than three hundred thousand civilians are on the move—some on tractors, some on foot—trying to escape a Russian-backed Syrian Army offensive aimed at reconquering the city of Dara’a and the surrounding area, where the rebellion against the regime of Bashar al-Assad began seven years ago.
The refugees are fleeing Dara’a in two waves: to the east, toward the nearby Jordanian border, and to the west, toward Israel. Both borders are closed, and the refugees are piling up at the frontiers. The Kingdom of Jordan, which has already taken in nearly a million and a half Syrians, fears that to take in any more would put its very survival at risk. (Jordan’s total population is about ten million.) For its part, Israel has accepted almost no Syrian refugees since the war began. Both countries are providing some help to those fleeing—the Jordanians inside a “safety zone” within their own territory, where other relief groups are also operating, the Israelis by sending relief supplies to camps across the border and by treating small numbers of Syrians in Israeli hospitals. It’s better than nothing, but, against the need, hardly enough.
As a result, this latest wave of displaced Syrians, who number three hundred and twenty-five thousand, are withering in the sun; most have no shelter, food, or water. Daytime temperatures are nearing a hundred degrees. Women on the run are giving birth; children are dying not just from dehydration brought on by diarrhea but from scorpion bites. [Continue reading…]