Friday, 23 August, 2019

South Syrian rebels agree surrender deal, Assad takes crossing

EPA-EFE  YOUSSEF BADAWI EPA-EFE YOUSSEF BADAWI
Patty Aguilar | 06 July, 2018, 22:15

"Within a short period of time, they will reach the (Nassib) crossing", the non-Syrian commander said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi held talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov earlier on Wednesday, and said a humanitarian catastrophe risked unfolding in southern Syria if there were no ceasefire.

Russian air strikes against insurgents in southwest Syria resumed on Wednesday, residents and a war monitor said, after a rebel said talks to restore government rule there peacefully had failed.

Reports on Thursday indicated that militants in Busra al-Sham town, one of the most strategically important strongholds of militants in southern Syria, had started surrendering their heavy weapons and military hardware to government forces.

South Syrian rebels said on Friday they had agreed to cease fire and start handing over heavy weapons in a deal mediated by Russian Federation that will restore state sovereignty over areas they hold in Deraa province after a fierce government offensive. The Israeli military said it had struck a Syrian army post.

The U.N. refugee agency has urged Jordan to open its borders as Syrians flee the battles and heavy air strikes en masse.

Syrian government forces have swept into insurgent territory in the south over the past two weeks, but the offensive has so far focused on Daraa province near Jordan's border, not Quneitra further west near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

He said Syrian and Russian jets had pummeled towns across the southwest and villages near the border crossing.

World powers have criticised the operation for violating a ceasefire announced past year by Washington, Amman and Moscow, but that has not halted the blitz.

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There was no immediate comment from President Bashar al Assad's government and its Russian backers.

Government advances in Deraa in an offensive since mid June had brought large parts of the province back under state control and caused a massive human exodus as hundreds of thousands of people fled.

The Observatory said Syrian troops were now about three kilometers (2 miles) from the Naseeb border crossing.

Six civilians, including a woman and four children, were killed in the town of Saida, which pro-government ground forces were trying to take, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Taking back the Nassib crossing paves the way for Assad to reopen a major trade artery vital to his hopes of reviving the Syrian economy and starting to rebuild government-held areas.

The area is also a "de-escalation zone", as agreed by Jordan, the United States and Russian Federation a year ago to reduce fighting.

The UN Security Council will hold a closed-door emergency meeting on the offensive on Thursday.

More than 330,000 have been displaced by the Syrian government offensive in the south, according to recent United Nations figures.

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