South Syrian rebels agree surrender deal, Assad takes crossing

South Syrian rebels agree surrender deal, Assad takes crossing

South Syrian rebels agree surrender deal, Assad takes crossing

AMMAN/BEIRUT - South Syrian rebels agreed to give up arms in a Russian-brokered ceasefire deal on Friday, rebel sources said, surrendering Deraa province to the government in another major victory for President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies.

Israel said it had targeted a Syrian army post that shelled a frontier "buffer zone" in the Golan area.

Shortly afterwards, an Al Jazeera reporter on the ground saw a convoy of about 10 army trucks with Russian and Syrian flags entering the strategically important Nassib border crossing, held by the rebels for three years.

The Syrian government and Russian forces launched new airstrikes on the southern province of Deraa Thursday, less than a day after a cease-fire with rebels broke down.

A key ally of Damascus, Moscow has been brokering talks for the negotiated surrender of rebels in areas of southern Syria bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The pro-Assad alliance commander said an Israeli air strike had hit a Syrian village in Quneitra on Friday, causing no casualties. The Norwegian Refugee Council has called this the largest displacement of Syria's seven-year war.

Hussein Abazeed, spokesman for the south's joint rebel command, accused Russian Federation of pursuing a "scorched-earth policy" to force rebels back to the negotiating table.

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The negotiations collapsed on Wednesday, with rebels blaming Russian Federation, ushering in a day-long volley of air strikes, barrel bombs, and missiles that ultimately pressured rebels to return to the table.

On Thursday, the rebels' joint operations room in the south said it would be willing to resume talks.

More than 30 rebel towns have agreed to fall back under regime control through these agreements, doubling the government's hold on Deraa province to around two-thirds.

"Thanks to the efforts of Russian officers, militants in Busra al-Sham have handed over a battle tank, an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and an artillery gun to government forces".

"Rebels will hand over their heavy-duty weapons in stages in exchange for the regime withdrawing from four towns" it had recently recaptured, said Abazeed.

"Cars carrying Russian military police and representatives of the Syrian government's border administration entered the Nassib crossing without a fight" said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The bombing barrage sent an estimated 320,000 civilians fleeing the area in what appeared to be one of the fastest displacements in Syria's seven-year civil war, prompting an global outcry and meetings at the United Nations.

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