Rebel-held towns in southwestern Syria surrender

Clay Curtis
July 2, 2018

Southwestern Syria is one of two remaining rebel strongholds, along with a region of the northwest, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he is determined to recapture.

Fierce battles were still ongoing around Daraa city, near the Jordanian border, where the army had repeatedly failed to capture a disused air base, rebels said.

It said negotiations aimed to reach a cease-fire as well as have rebels hand over their heavy weapons then later their light weapons.

Retaking the whole of Daraa province would be a symbolic victory, as it is seen as the cradle of the anti-Assad uprising seven years ago that spiralled into civil war.

Government forces continued to bombard other parts of Daraa province on Saturday, with air strikes killing at least 15 civilians, according to the Observatory.

"The last sessions were today", said Bashar al-Zobi, accusing the regime and its Russian ally of wanting nothing but "surrender and injustice".

Regime air raids also took the lives of five non-combatants in the town of Ghasam. This ritual was repeated in the town of Dael, north of Daraa, which also joined the reconciliation, together with Tal Khleif and Tal al-Sheikh Hassan, where rebel gunmen started to give up their weapons to the Army.

Russian Federation is demanding rebels either agree to leave the contested areas with their families or accept the return of state rule. The massing refugees at the border aren't going to be allowed across, however. The Russians were not ready to listen to our demands.

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But on Sunday, following mediation efforts by Jordan, the team re-entered talks with Russian officers, Ibrahim al Jabawi, the spokesman for FSA negotiators said.

"The real concern is that we are going to see a repetition of what we saw in Eastern Ghouta - the bloodshed, the suffering, the civilians being held, being under a siege", United Nations human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said, referring to the rebel-held region near Damascus that was captured in April after weeks of heavy bombardment that killed about 1,700 civilians.

Warfare in the southwest could risk a further escalation because of its proximity to Israel.

The deal being discussed does not include rebel territory in adjacent Quneitra province, bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the spokesman said.

The recent escalation comes despite Daraa and opposition-held parts of neighboring Quneitra province being included in a so-called "de-escalation zone" agreed by Russian Federation, the United States and Jordan past year.

The opposition's chief negotiator in wider U.N. peace talks, Nasr al-Hariri, last week accused the United States of complicity in Assad's southwest offensive, saying American silence could only be explained by "a malicious deal".

Jordan's prime minister visits a key crossing with Syria on Sunday, inspecting aid deliveries by the Jordanian army to the tens of thousands of displaced Syrians gathering at the border Amman has kept sealed.

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