Syrian army captures main border crossing with Jordan amid progress in Daraa

Posted July 09, 2018

Jordan's army has sent reinforcements to its northern border with Syria as Syrian government forces backed by Russian air strikes appear poised to seize the main frontier crossing from rebels, officials said on Friday.

On Friday, rebel negotiators said that they were on the verge of a deal that would see them surrender their heavy weapons in return for a cease-fire and, for some, safe passage to the country's final opposition-held area in the north.

The United Nations says the assault, which began on June 19, has pushed more than 320,000 people to flee, but SANA said the deal would see them return to their homes.

"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.

Friday's agreement came after the bombardment of rebel-held areas intensified earlier this week after the rebels rejected a deal with the Russians.

Under the agreement, Syrian forces will not be allowed to remain in the area re-taken by the government, sources told Al Jazeera.

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

The ceasefire deal - brokered by Russian Federation, a Syrian government ally, on Friday - saw rebels agree to hand over heavy weapons in exchange for security guarantees and safe passage to other areas.

Though Jordan was an important sponsor of rebels in the south, analysts said this support was always aimed primarily at safeguarding its border from security threats such as Islamic State militants, not toppling Assad.

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.

Russian guarantees will also be extended to rebel fighters who wish to "settle their status" with the government. "The Russians and the Syrian regime offer no safety", he said.

The initial phases would cover the area along the border with Jordan, rather than the parts of north-western Deraa around the city of Nawa, he said.

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Most of the refugees are women and children from the Daraa province who traveled on foot all the way west to Israel or south to Jordan.

"Lieberman gave the green light to Al-Assad to attack Deraa" in southern Syria, Al-Walie said. Hezbollah was helping lead the offensive but keeping a low profile, pro-Damascus sources said.

The Israeli army said it launched strikes after Syrian mortar fire struck near Israel's security fence, "part of the internal fighting between the regime and the rebels in Syria", it said, without giving details on the retaliation.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled the fighting in the region toward Jordan's border.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

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