Published: Sat, July 07, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Syrian government forces bombard rebel fighters in Deraa

Syrian government forces bombard rebel fighters in Deraa

It has remained under opposition control since the war began, but as the Syrian government has strengthened its hold on other parts of the country, Daraa has become a new target.

The Russian-backed Syrian government has launched a major campaign to recover southwestern Syria from rebels.

Rebels in southern Syria were divided on Monday over whether to accept deals offered by Russian Federation that would see regime forces retake control of opposition towns.

The number of displaced has multiplied in the past week, despite talks over the weekend between rebel Free Syrian Army groups and Russian Federation to cede territory.

The first round of talks on Saturday prompted rebels to walk out, saying Russian terms amounted to a humiliating surrender.

Their spokesman Ibrahim Jabbawi said the talks had not produced "any results" because Moscow had insisted rebels hand over their heavy-duty arms in one go.

A source close to the talks said rebels would be willing to hand over heavy weapons in multiple phases.

In that session, opposition proposed a ceasefire, the army's withdrawal from towns it had already taken, and safe passage to opposition territory elsewhere for fighters or civilians refusing to live under regime control.

But Moscow roundly rejected the terms, the source said. Displaced families could return with guarantees by Russian military police.

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The opposition negotiators have returned to the table with an expanded 12-strong delegation that will now also tackle the fate of rebel factions in the Quneitra province further west near the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, Jabawi said.

The state media said the military operations are going in tandem with the reconciliation efforts, which explains the situation where several towns accepted the entry of the Syrian army without battles.

The IDF estimates that Assad's forces, which enjoy the backing of Russian troops and air cover, will reconquer the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

There were no immediate reports of a resumption of bombing or other hostilities after the collapse of the talks.

Moscow has used tough deadlines in the past with opposition negotiators but has extended them at times.

More than a dozen towns and villages have agreed to a regime takeover in recent days, doubling the area under government control in the main province of Daraa to 60 percent since operations began on June 19.

The United Nations said on Monday the number of Syrians displaced by the onslaught had already exceeded 270,000, with 70,000 people seeking shelter along the border.

A week ago the global organisation said that 160,000 people had been displaced.

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