Forces belonging to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Russian Federation have ramped up their attacks on rebel positions in and near the city of Deraa in southwestern Syria, putting thousands of civilians in jeopardy.
According to a report from AFP, 28 civilians have been killed so far in the new offensive.
Due to the increased violence, civilians in the region are beginning to flee into nearby olive groves, and some may attempt to seek shelter in Jordan. The Jordanians, however, have been explicit in saying they will not accept any more refugees.
The U.N. warns that the attacks on Deraa could create another humanitarian crisis on top of the “6.5 million people” that Reuters estimates have been displaced as a result of the civil war.
Reports from Reuters claim that Assad’s forces are using barrel bombs and are dropping propaganda leaflets urging the citizens of Deraa to “kick out the terrorists as your brothers did in eastern Ghouta.” It is the first time in over a year that Assad’s forces have used barrel bombs, which are improvised explosives capable of inflicting mass casualties and heavy damage.
Deraa sits near the Jordanian border and the Israeli Golan Heights, making it a potential powder-keg that could ignite an international conflict. Russian airstrikes, which violate a de-escalation agreement that they signed last year, are currently aimed at rebel-occupied bases on the outskirts Deraa close to the border.
The United States is unlikely to intervene despite the Russian involvement. U.S. Forces deployed to Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve are focused almost exclusively on eliminating ISIS.