In Major Victory for Assad: South Syrian Rebels Agree Surrender Deal

In Major Victory for Assad: South Syrian Rebels Agree Surrender DealIn Major Victory for Assad: South Syrian Rebels Agree Surrender Deal

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.

The Syrian government recovered the Nassib border crossing with Jordan, held by rebels for three years, state media reported, after an assault in insurgent territory along the frontier backed by Russian airstrikes, Reuters reported.

A state television correspondent said the rebels had agreed to hand over heavy and medium weapons in all the towns and cities included in the surrender deal.

Rebel sources said Russia would guarantee the safe return of people who fled the offensive in the biggest exodus of the war, with 320,000 people uprooted.

Seven years into the war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, Assad now commands most of Syria with his allies’ help, though most of the north and a chunk of the east remains out of his hands. 

Russia has been at the forefront of the Deraa campaign, both bombing and negotiating with rebels.

 Next Target

Assad’s next target in the southwest appears to be rebel-held areas of Quneitra province at the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where fighting between insurgents and the government escalated on Friday.

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

Government advances in Deraa since mid June had brought large parts of the province back under state control.

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. The deal is to be rolled out across rebel-held areas of Deraa in phases, but there is no timeline as yet, said a spokesman for an operations room for rebels.

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.

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