Syrian opposition factions agree to Russian settlement in Daraa

Glen Norman
July 4, 2018

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

At least eight battered rebel-held towns in southern Syria on Saturday returned to regime control under Russian-brokered deals after almost two weeks of bombardment, a Britain-based monitor said.

Discussions on Sunday were hard, said diplomatic sources familiar with the talks.

Mr Safadi also said he would hold talks with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Tuesday, which he hoped would "take us more steps forward to contain this crisis and prevent more destruction".

The Observatory reported that warplanes carried out 32 air strikes overnight as the offensive continued, hitting nine towns in Deraa province. Washington warned it would respond to violations of this agreement, but has done nothing so far.

In a statement Monday, the civilian half of the opposition's delegation to talks said they withdrew.

A war monitor and a military media unit run by the government's ally Hezbollah said numerous other towns and villages had agreed to come back under Assad's rule. "Jordan has reached its capacity in receiving refugees", Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told the pan-Arab broadcaster al-Jazeera late on Thursday.

She said her office has received reports that Islamic State fighters, in control of the Yarmouk Basin area in the western part of Daraa governorate, are not allowing civilians to leave the areas.

According to a war monitoring group, the offensive has uprooted more than 120,000 civilians, driving majority towards the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The transfer on Friday night was the product of communication between local Syrian leaders and contacts in Israel, who arranged to take the injured into the Jewish state for treatment.

Both countries' militaries have distributed aid supplies to people seeking shelter near the borders.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli Defense Forces announced that it was bolstering its defenses near the Golan Heights border with Syria with tanks and artillery.

Amman says the actual number is closer to 1.3 million people and says it has spent more than $10 billion (8.5 billion euros) hosting them.

Until Assad's offensive began this month, its front lines had been mostly stable.

In the last several days, Daraa has been the target of intense air and ground attacks by the Assad regime and its allies, who have advanced deep into Daraa's eastern countryside, capturing the towns of Busra al-Harir and Nahtah.

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