Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa occurred within the context of Arab Spring protests in Syria, beginning on 15 March 2011, with Daraa as the center of uproar. The Syrian Army on 25 April started an eleven-day siege of the city. This harsh reaction would prove to be another step in the escalation of the Syrian conflict, that would eventually escalate into civil war.
|Siege of Daraa|
|Part of the Civil uprising phase of the Syrian Civil War|
|Commanders and leaders|
Gen. Maher al-Assad |
Gen. Suheil al-Hassan
Gen. Mohsin Makhlouf
Gen. Ahmed Yousef Jarad
Gen. Ramadan Ramadan
4th Division (42nd brigade) |
5th Division (12th, 15th, 112th, 132nd brig, 175th reg)
Special forces (35th, 41st regiment)
|Casualties and losses|
|50–220 protesters killed and 600–1,000 arrested, 81 defected soldiers killed||25 killed, 177 wounded|
On Friday 18 March, demonstrations erupted in four cities, the largest protest was in Daraa where thousands of protesters demanded an end to government corruption. These Daraa protests were repressed by security forces shooting at demonstrators. Seven police officers and at least four demonstrators were killed. The city of Daraa remained a focal point for the Syrian protests.
On 20 March, thousands took to the streets of Daraa for the third straight day, shouting slogans against the country's emergency law. Fifteen persons were killed and scores injured as security forces opened fire on protesters. The courthouse, the Ba'ath party headquarters in the city, and the Syriatel building owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Assad, were then all set on fire.
On 23 March, security forces stormed on thousand demonstrators near the central Omari mosque in Daraa, killing at least 37 people.
On 8 April, heavy clashes erupted in Daraa between protesters and security forces, in which 27 protesters and 19 soldiers were killed. In the protests on the all-Syrian “Great Friday” 22 April, in Daraa 100 demonstrators were killed, according to Al Jazeera.
- Monday 25 April: Residents told: before dawn eight tanks – their first use against protesters since 15 March – drove into town with between hundreds and 6,000 troops; they took three smaller mosques and tried to conquer the Omari Mosque which since March had served as a headquarters for demonstrators; water and electricity and phone lines were cut, snipers took positions on roofs of mosques and were said to have fired, and a mix of soldiers and armed irregular forces, men with guns and knives, searched house-to-house for protesters.
- Dozens were killed in the predawn raid. Bodies were lying in the streets and couldn’t be reached without risking being shot at, a resident said over satellite phone; “they want to teach Syria a lesson by teaching Daraa a lesson”, he said. Another resident of Daraa said over the phone, according to Arizona Daily Star: "Let Obama come and take Syria. Let Israel come and take Syria. Let the Jews come. Anything is better than Bashar Assad." According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and another opposition source, the second-in-command of the acting army brigade refused orders to storm the city and was arrested himself.
- 26 April: According to human rights groups, dozens of people in Daraa were arrested by security forces. A resident said over the telephone to Associated Press: “We are being subjected to a massacre; children are being killed”.
- 28 April: Al Jazeera suggested, with amateur video pictures, that soldiers in Daraa refused to shoot at demonstrators, or defected, and then were wounded themselves, perhaps shot by the army, after which they were helped by civilians; the government immediately officially denied ‘any such reports’.
- Today, people in Daraa could still not leave their homes because snipers shot everything that moved, sources said to Al Jazeera. Between 25 and 28 April, 42 to 50 people were killed in Daraa by security forces, Al Jazeera and Los Angeles Times estimated. A Daraa resident said, according to the Los Angeles Times, that an entire army division or brigade had broken off and was hiding among the people; the claim could not be verified, due to foreign journalists not being granted access in Syria.
- Friday 29 April: Thousands of protesters from outside tried to enter besieged Daraa, security forces fired at them and killed 15, sources told Al Jazeera. In total, 33 people were reported killed today in Daraa, said activists. 156 people were arrested, according to the Syrian military.
- Daraa was now completely surrounded by tanks and armed troops, with snipers still on roofs and even hiding in minarets of mosques, an eyewitness said to Al Jazeera over the phone. Morgues contained today 83 corpses, according to prominent lawyer in Daraa Tamer al-Jahamani. Dead bodies still lay rotting in the streets, because collecting them was risking being shot, the eyewitness said to Al Jazeera.
- The government claimed it was battling “extremist and terrorist groups” in Daraa and that today two soldiers were killed.
- 30 April: Syrian Army troops backed by around 20 tanks and by helicopters, firing tank shells and machine guns and dropping paratroopers on the Omari Mosque, took this mosque that was a focal point for protests since March, killing six people, one of them being the son of the mosque’s imam, witnesses said.
- A witness told Al Jazeera that 300 soldiers had defected and joined the protesters, and that “there’s no food, no medicine, no electricity, we are collecting rain water to drink”.
- Daraa inhabitants were still confined to their homes, communications still down; the town since 25 April still without water, fuel or electricity. Unable to leave their homes, residents chanted “God is Great!” to each other from their windows in the evenings, infuriating security forces.
- A source in Daraa told Al Jazeera that security forces were intensifying their house to house searches, and that hundreds of people had been arrested. The government confirmed that 149 people had been arrested in Daraa.
- 4 May: A Syrian military official told that security forces had arrested members of an armed terrorist group in Daraa, where they had found weapons and ammunition hidden underground and in gardens.
- 5 May: The Israeli website Ynetnews reported that only about 50 people were killed in Daraa since 25 April. The Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS) today reported that 244 dead bodies of civilians, many of them children, have been transferred from Daraa to the Tishreen Military Hospital in Damascus. Also 81 dead bodies of soldiers and army officers had arrived from Daraa in that hospital, most of them killed by a gunshot to the back, probably after refusing to shoot civilians, according to DCHRS. An amateur video, reportedly from Daraa, showed dozens of people killed in the streets, people shot through the head. DCHRS speaks of “10 days of massacres” in Daraa, and says army units have been using anti-aircraft machine guns to shell houses in central neighbourhoods. Since 30 April, almost 1,000 men have reportedly been arrested in Daraa, the BBC reports.
- Syria's state run news agency and military officials announced that the military had "carried out" and completed "its mission in detaining terrorists" and restoring calm to Daraa and that army units had begun a “gradual withdrawal” from Daraa. An AFP correspondent saw 350 soldiers, 20 armoured personnel carriers and 20 lorries driving out of the city, while witnesses saw a column of around 30 tanks on armoured carriers heading north out of Daraa. Army units remained deployed at entrances to the city.
- Trucks carrying drinking water, food and first aid material and experts from the Syrian Red Crescent and the International Red Cross delivered their first emergency relief supplies to Daraa. 150 students at the Daraa University held a brief sit-in.
- 6 May: Residents insisted the military still remained in force in Daraa with streets largely subdued and residents afraid to leave their homes. Protesters gathered in Tafas, 12 km NNW of Daraa, tried to enter Daraa but could not because Daraa was still besieged, according to witnesses.
- 7 May: The Syrian human-rights organisation Sawasiah estimated that during the 11-days siege 220 civilians were killed in Daraa. The Syrian military declared it had “pursued members of terrorist groups in and around neighbourhoods of Daraa” and “arrested people and seized (…) weapons that these groups have used to attack the army and citizens”.
U.S. President Barack Obama, in reaction to the military operation 25 April in Daraa, said the U.S. prepared to freeze Syrian officials' American assets. E.U. countries, including permanent Security Council members France and the U.K., asked the U.N. Security Council 25 April to condemn the Syrian government's use of violence, but it was unclear whether permanent council members Russia and China would support that idea.
- 9 May: According to the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, the Syrian army used schools and a soccer stadium as makeshift prisons for the hundreds of arrests of recent days. A U.N. humanitarian assessment mission was not given permission to enter Syria and visit Daraa.
- 13 May: Protests erupted in and around besieged Daraa.
- 14 May: Syrian officials announced that soldiers and tanks were being pulled out of Daraa.
- 16 May 2011: The army allowed residents to venture outside their homes for two hours a day, a human rights activist said. On the outskirts of Daraa, two mass graves were reportedly discovered with 24 and 7 bodies. Within an hour the Syrian army reportedly took control of the larger site, started removing the corpses and confiscated mobile phones of witnesses. The story could not be independently verified, partly because foreign reporters were not granted access into Syria.
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