U.N. rights boss warns of "catastrophe" in battle for Syria's Deraa

GENEVA - The United Nations human rights chief warned on Friday that civilians in Syria's southwestern Deraa province may be trapped in a siege situation and subjected to bombing and shelling as in the battle for eastern Ghouta, leading to a "catastrophe."

In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said his office had reports that Islamic State fighters trying to control Yarmouk basin in Deraa province are "not allowing civilians to leave areas under their control."

Zeid said that some government-run checkpoints were charging people several hundred dollars to pass through and he appealed to all sides to provide safe passage to those wishing to flee.

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