ibusinesslines.com September 21, 2018

Syrian forces reach Jordanian border crossing as rebels negotiate surrender

07 July 2018, 06:27 | Erica Roy

Syria, Russia resume airstrikes after cease-fire fails

Smoke rises in Deraa area Syria in this handout released

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Ibrahim Jabawi, spokesman for the rebels' joint operations room, said they had reached an agreement with the Russians in which insurgents would begin to hand over some of their heavy weapons in return for a government pullout from several villages.

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.

During the renewed fighting, regime forces retook control of a security checkpoint on the Jordanian border for the first time in more than three years, the monitoring group said.

The move by rebel forces on July 5 comes after a brief suspension of the Moscow-brokered negotiations that have produced agreements already to return more than 30 towns to government control in the strategic zone of southern Syria bordering both Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

As Assad seeks victory, there seems little hope of a negotiated peace, with six million Syrians overseas as refugees and 6.5 million more internally displaced.

Southwest Syria was declared a de-escalation zone previous year by Russia, Jordan and the United States.

Taking back the Nassib crossing paves the way for Assad to reopen a trade artery vital to his hopes of reviving the Syrian economy and starting to rebuild government-held areas.

Near the start of the government's offensive, Washington indicated it would respond to violations of that deal, but it has not done so yet and rebels said it told them to expect no American military help.

They resumed talks at around midday on Friday.

Russian military police would deploy instead with local forces overseen by Russia also deployed, they said.

Rebels say Russian Federation has insisted that opposition factions hand over their heavy weapons all at once, while rebels want to relinquish their arms in several phases.

The initial phases will cover the area along the border with Jordan, rather than the parts of northwestern Deraa around the city of Nawa, he said.

The Observatory said an armed group that had controlled some border villages had handed over control to the advancing government forces without putting up resistance.

Most of the hospitals had shut down amid the destruction in insurgent territory, which now barely had access to water or electricity, he said.

Hundreds of troops in a large military convoy with Russian and Syrian flags advanced on Syria's Nassib border crossing with Jordan, witnesses said.

Joshua Landis, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma, tells VOA he thinks "Hezbollah will play an advisory role", but the "Syrian government has every incentive to take control of the [border with Israel]", which is close to the Jordanian border as well, "and not to allow Iran or Hezbollah to control Syria's foreign policy by going to war with Israel on the border".

The UN refugee agency has urged Jordan to open its borders to Syrians fleeing their homes.

During Syria's seven-year war, it has conducted scores of air strikes on what it describes as Iranian or Tehran-backed targets.

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