Siege of Daraa

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Siege of Daraa
Part of the Civil uprising phase of the Syrian Civil War
Date25 April – 5 May 2011
(1 week and 3 days)
Result Protests suppressed

Syrian opposition

  • Opposition protesters
  • Defecting soldiers

Syrian Arab Republic

Commanders and leaders
Unknown Gen. Maher al-Assad
Gen. Suheil al-Hassan
Gen. Mohsin Makhlouf
Gen. Ahmed Yousef Jarad
Gen. Ramadan Ramadan[1]
Unknown 4th Division (42nd brigade)
5th Division (12th, 15th, 112th, 132nd brig, 175th reg)
Special forces (35th, 41st regiment)[1]
Casualties and losses
50[2]–220[3] protesters killed and 600[4]–1,000[5] arrested, 81 defected soldiers killed[6] 25 killed, 177 wounded[7]

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.

The siege involved tanks, helicopters and around 6,000 troops. Up to 244 people were killed, many of them children;[6] also 81 soldiers were killed,[6] and 1,000 people were arrested.[5]


Several Arab Spring demonstrations happened across Syria in first months of 2011. On the 6th of March, in the city of Daraa, between 12 and 15 teenagers were arrested for graffiting messages against the regime, including the Arab Spring slogan Ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam ("the people want to bring down the regime"), on the 22nd of February. The schoolstudents were reportly tortured in the Political Security cells, chiefed by Atef Najib, cousin of the President Bashar Al-Assad.[8][9] On the 18th of March, protests erupted demanding the release of the imprisoned children, an end to corruption, and for greater political freedom. The security forces responded with live ammunition, killing three people, and fourth dying the following day. This lead increase on the size of the protests.[8][9][10][11]

On the third straight day of protests, on the 20th of March, government forces opened fire once again, killing another person, which brought the deathtoll to five, and injuring dozens.[11] The protests turned violent, setting on fire the local courthouse and Ba'ath party headquarters, as well as the building of Syriatel, owned by Rami Makhlouf, cousin of President Assad.[12][13][14] The Omari Mosque was turned into a field hospital for those protesters who feared reprisals going to the hospital.[12] In order to calm the protests, the government sought to meet some of the protesters demands, releasing the children detained on the 6th of March, sacking the governor of Daraa, Faisal Khaltoum, and announcing a decrease of military service time from 21 to 18 months.[12][14]

On 23 March, security forces stormed on thousand demonstrators near the central Omari mosque in Daraa, killing at least 37 people.[citation needed] Government authorities blamed the clashes on "an armed gang", accusing it of stockpilling weapons and ammunition in the mosque and killing four people.[15][16][17]

On 8 April, heavy clashes erupted in Daraa between protesters and security forces, in which 27 protesters and 19 soldiers were killed.[18] In the protests on the all-Syrian “Great Friday” 22 April, in Daraa 100 demonstrators were killed, according to Al Jazeera.


Between 25 April and 5 May 2011, the fourth armoured division[19] of the Syrian Army, led by Maher al-Assad (brother of Bashar), besieged Daraa, a city of 75,000[20] or 300,000[14] inhabitants.

  • 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[20] and were said to have fired,[21] and a mix of soldiers and armed irregular forces,[20] men with guns and knives,[21] searched house-to-house for protesters.[20]
Dozens were killed in the predawn raid.[22] 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.[20] 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."[23] 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.[22]
  • 26 April: According to human rights groups, dozens of people in Daraa were arrested by security forces.[21] A resident said over the telephone to Associated Press: “We are being subjected to a massacre; children are being killed”.[21]
  • 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’.[24]
Today, people in Daraa could still not leave their homes because snipers shot everything that moved, sources said to Al Jazeera.[25] Between 25 and 28 April, 42 to 50 people were killed in Daraa by security forces, Al Jazeera and Los Angeles Times estimated.[25][26] 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.[26]
  • 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.[27] In total, 33 people were reported killed today in Daraa, said activists.[28] 156 people were arrested, according to the Syrian military.[28]
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.[27] Morgues contained today 83 corpses, according to prominent lawyer in Daraa Tamer al-Jahamani.[27] Dead bodies still lay rotting in the streets, because collecting them was risking being shot, the eyewitness said to Al Jazeera.[27]
The government claimed it was battling “extremist and terrorist groups” in Daraa and that today two soldiers were killed.[27]
  • 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,[29] one of them being the son of the mosque's imam,[30] 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”.[28]
  • 1 May: Tanks today fired shells into Daraa's ancient Roman quarter, a resident said.[31]
Daraa inhabitants were still confined to their homes, communications still down;[30] the town since 25 April still without water, fuel or electricity.[31] Unable to leave their homes, residents chanted “God is Great!” to each other from their windows in the evenings, infuriating security forces.[31]
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.[30] The government confirmed that 149 people had been arrested in Daraa.[30]
  • 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.[32]
  • 5 May: The Israeli website Ynetnews reported that only about 50 people were killed in Daraa since 25 April.[2] 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.[33] Since 30 April, almost 1,000 men have reportedly been arrested in Daraa, the BBC reports.[5]
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[2][34] and that army units had begun a “gradual withdrawal” from Daraa.[5] An AFP correspondent saw 350 soldiers, 20 armoured personnel carriers and 20 lorries driving out of the city,[35] 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.[34]
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.[35] 150 students at the Daraa University held a brief sit-in.[36]
  • 6 May: Residents insisted the military still remained in force in Daraa with streets largely subdued and residents afraid to leave their homes.[37] Protesters gathered in Tafas, 12 km NNW of Daraa, tried to enter Daraa but could not because Daraa was still besieged, according to witnesses.[38][39]
  • 7 May: The Syrian human-rights organisation Sawasiah[40] estimated that during the 11-days siege 220 civilians were killed in Daraa.[3] 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”.[41]

International reactions[edit]

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.[42] 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.[43]


  • 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.[44] A U.N. humanitarian assessment mission was not given permission to enter Syria and visit Daraa.[44]
  • 13 May: Protests erupted in and around besieged Daraa.[45]
  • 14 May: Syrian officials announced that soldiers and tanks were being pulled out of Daraa.[46]
  • 16 May 2011: The army allowed residents to venture outside their homes for two hours a day, a human rights activist said.[47] On the outskirts of Daraa, two mass graves were reportedly discovered with 24 and 7 bodies.[48][49] Within an hour the Syrian army reportedly took control of the larger site, started removing the corpses and confiscated mobile phones of witnesses.[49] The story could not be independently verified, partly because foreign reporters were not granted access into Syria.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b ""By All Means Necessary!" - Human Rights Watch". Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Syrian troops start withdrawal from Daraa,, 5 May 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  3. ^ a b "'Civilian killings in Syrian demonstrations rises to 800'". Jerusalem Post. 7 May 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Five dead in 'Day of Defiance'". Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d "Syria: Raid in Damascus suburb as crackdown defied". BBC News. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b c "Syria protests: Rights group warns of 'Deraa massacre'". BBC News. 5 May 2011. Archived from the original on 6 May 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Syria troops crack down again". Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  8. ^ a b Hugh Macleod; Unnamed reporter in Syria (19 April 2011). "Inside Deraa". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  9. ^ a b Dominic Evans; Suleiman Al-Khalidi (17 March 2013). "From teenage graffiti to a country in ruins: Syria's two years of rebellion". Reuters. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  10. ^ "Middle East unrest: Three killed at protest in Syria". BBC News. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Syria: Government Crackdown Leads to Protester Deaths". Human Rights Watch. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  12. ^ a b c "Officers Fire on Crowd as Syrian Protests Grow". New York Times. Damascus. 20 March 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Manifestantes sirios queman una sede del partido Baaz". El País (in Spanish). Damascus. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  14. ^ a b c Martin Gehlen (21 March 2011). "Das syrische Regime lässt auf Demonstranten feuern". Zeit Online (in German). Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  15. ^ "In Syrien eskaliert der Konflikt zwischen Regime und Demonstranten". Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). 23 March 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  16. ^ "Syrie: au moins 15 morts dans des heurts à Deraa". L'Express (in French). 23 March 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  17. ^ "Syria unrest: 'Protesters killed' at Omari mosque". BBC News. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  18. ^ "Syria: Security Forces Barring Protesters from Medical Care". Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  19. ^ Daragahi, Borzou (30 April 2011). "Thousands protest in Damascus after Syrian crackdown". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  20. ^ a b c d e Shadid, Anthony (25 April 2011). "Syria Escalates Crackdown as Tanks Go to Restive City". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  21. ^ a b c d Barry Neild and agencies (26 April 2011). "Syrian regime's attacks on protesters escalate". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 26 April 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  22. ^ a b Carter, Chelsea (26 April 2011). "Deadly attack on protesters raises questions about Syria's stability". CNN. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  23. ^ Syria crackdown on dissent harsher with troops, tanks, Arizona Daily Star, Tuesday, 26 April 2011
  24. ^ Al Jazeera’s correspondent Rula Amin, Damascus, in video clip at 12:59 pm, 28Apr2011, in:"Syria Live Blog – 28 April". Al Jazeera English. 28 April 2011. Archived from the original on 28 April 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  25. ^ a b "Syria Live Blog – 28 April". Al Jazeera English. 28 April 2011. Archived from the original on 28 April 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  26. ^ a b "Syria Party members quit; military defections reported". Los Angeles Times. 29 April 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  27. ^ a b c d e "Scores killed on Syria's 'day of rage'". Al Jazeera English. 29 April 2011. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  28. ^ a b c "Fresh Violence Hits Syrian Town". Al Jazeera English. 30 April 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  29. ^ "Syrian forces kill 62 as America tightens sanctions". Gulf News. 30 April 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  30. ^ a b c d "Syrian protesters stay defiant amid crackdown". Al Jazeera English. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  31. ^ a b c "Syria Forces Shell Restive Daraa". Newser. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  32. ^ "SYRIA: Security forces, officials attempt to head off protests". The Los Angeles Times. 4 May 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
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  36. ^ "Tensions rise in Syria as ruling forces mass tanks in protest hotbed". The Australian. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
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  39. ^ "Thousands Of Syrians Amass Near City Of Deraa". Sky News. 6–7 May 2011. Archived from the original on 9 May 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  40. ^ We (Wikipedia) have not yet found independent information about organisation Sawasiah. Their own website is to be found at: Syrian Human Rights Organization (Sawasiah) (Retrieved 2 February 2014.)
  41. ^ "Deaths reported as Syrian forces storm city". Al Jazeera English. 7 May 2011. Archived from the original on 21 August 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  42. ^ Richter, Paul; Borzou Daragahi (25 April 2011). "U.S. prepares to impose sanctions on Syria". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 26 April 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
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  44. ^ a b "Syrian forces use soccer stadiums as prisons, human rights groups say". CNN. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
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  47. ^ "Syria 'tightens security grip' in border area". Al Jazeera English. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  48. ^ "'Dozens killed' in Syrian border town". Al Jazeera English. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  49. ^ a b c "Shallow grave yields several bodies in Syrian city marked by unrest". CNN. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2013.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°37′00″N 36°07′00″E / 32.6167°N 36.1167°E / 32.6167; 36.1167