Published: Mon, July 09, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Thousands who fled recent fighting in Syria's Daraa province have returned home

Thousands who fled recent fighting in Syria's Daraa province have returned home

BEIRUT-The Syrian regime and its ally, Russia, took control of an important border crossing with Jordan on Friday in a deal with antigovernment rebels that also included the surrender of four nearby towns in the country's southwest.

Friday's reported takeover comes after rebels announced reaching a deal with Russian Federation, an ally of the Syrian government, aimed at ending a devastating government campaign in the province of Daraa in southern Syria.

The deal would let rebels hand over heavy weapons in return for a cease-fire and offer a safe passage to the opposition's last stronghold in the north. According to the deal, the legal status of the militants who wish to remain in the area is resolved and the terrorists that reject the settlement are allowed to leave with their families to Idlib.

Government forces will also take over "all observation posts along the Syrian-Jordanian border", state media said on Friday, hours after the government regained control of the vital Nassib border crossing with Jordan.

Calm reigned over the region on Saturday as the two sides finalised the ceasefire deal, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Civil defense sources in Daraa said that the number of people fleeing Daraa has surpassed 350,000.

But those talks collapsed on Wednesday because of Russia's tough demands, rebels said, ushering in a blitz of air strikes, barrel bombs and missiles.

State television footage showed government tanks rolling toward the border crossing, which the rebels seized from Syrian forces in April 2015.

Weakened by a crushing government offensive backed by Russian Federation and abandoned by their US allies, rebels in southern Syria found themselves compelled to accept yet another humiliating surrender deal that would see opposition fighters transported by buses to areas held by rebels in the country's north.

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"People have started to return to their homes since yesterday" from the Jordanian border, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said on Saturday.

State news agency SANA reported that Syria's two-starred flag had been raised over the crossing.

Friday's agreement came a day after Jordan, which hosts more than 1.4 million Syrian refugees and has closed its northern border, said it had managed to convince the Syrian opposition and the Russians to meet again.

Recapturing it could bring renewed trade with neighbouring Jordan.

Concrete blocks near the Nassib border crossing were plastered with emblems of insurgent factions, while an army checkpoint at the entrance carried photos of Assad.

Nearly all displaced Syrians at the Nassib-Jaber crossing have left the Jordanian border and returned to Syria, Anders Pedersen, the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Jordan, said on Sunday.

Earlier this week, Israel moved armored forces to the Golan to support troops there in response to the changing tactical situation in the area.

Their heavy bombing of surrounding towns, and the surrender of others, had already put regime troops within three kilometres of the border, according to the Observatory. "There was fierce and intense resistance", he said.

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