There is an impending sense of deja-vu as preparations are being made by forces aligned with the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al Assad for the final siege of Dara’a in the south of that broken nation. And sadly, we have all been through this before, in places like Homs or Eastern Ghouta, where defiant rebel redoubts are slowly strangled into submission, with the women, children, ill and old paying the highest price for the war being waged in their streets and alleys before their tired eyes.

As it stands now, the city of Dara’a, which has been held by anti-Al Assad forces from the very nascent days of the popular uprising against the president’s rule, is under artillery bombardment and attack from the air, with regime helicopters launching barrel bombs — its go-to weapon of annihilation — and indiscriminate targeting of those on the ground.

In the past days, as the regime forces moved on the ground to isolate and weaken anti-regime positions around Dara’a, an estimated 270,000 civilians have been displaced, most with nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.

Over the years of standing against the regime, Dara’a had become a stopping-off point and a redoubt of relief for the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled the south, crossing the border into Jordan — joining the vast United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees camp at Zartari, trying to eke out a survival with family and friends in Jordanian cities and towns. But Jordan now is a nation that can no longer sustain those Syrians living there, and any influx from the siege of Dara’a will stretch its already limited resources to breaking point.

What is alarming is the depressing knowledge that we have been through all of this before — the fighting, the suffering, the tears, death and destruction. The rebel forces are in no position to help as they face a near-certain demise, save for some miraculous intervention. Regime forces feel no compunction to help, intent only on defeating its enemy and claiming a final pyrrhic victory. And humanitarian organisations are desperate to assist, but cannot while fighting wages.

The events of the death throes of Homs and Eastern Ghouta, and in other besieged cities, show that ceasefires can be arranged, even if tenuous and troubled. Humanitarian corridors can be established, the old, ill and elderly allowed out and rebels disarmed. That is what is urgently needed now in Dara’a. And every hour’s delay is a death sentence for that city’s condemned.