Israeli Army Reinforces Positions Near Golan Heights Border With Syria

Geneva Stokes
July 4, 2018

Jordan has been faciliating talks between groups of Free Syrian Army rebels and the Russians over a deal that would end the fighting in return for the re-establishment of state sovereignty in Deraa province.

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

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that at least eight battered rebel-held towns in Daraa returned to regime control under Russian-brokered deals.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Deraa and urged neighbouring countries to provide safe passage to those wishing to flee the violence.

The onslaught has sparked fears of a re-run of the offensives previous year against the rebel enclaves of Aleppo and eastern Ghouta, including deadly bombardments followed by a retaking of territory and an accord to evacuate rebels from the areas. "I remind all parties to the conflict that worldwide law requires that they do their utmost to protect civilians, and call upon them to provide safe passage to those wishing to flee, while those wishing to stay must be protected at all times", the High Commissioner said.

Many who fled have sought refuge along the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

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Syrian rebels met with Russian Federation in Bosra Al Sham Saturday to negotiate a peace deal, but Ibrahim Jabawi, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, announced that they were unable to reach an agreement because rebels were unwilling to accept Russia's demand for surrender.

Jordan, which has taken in more than half a million displaced Syrians since the war began, and Israel have said they will not open their borders to refugees. Another rebel official said some towns were trying to negotiate deals with the state on their own.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said that besides Ibtah, rebels surrendered their weapons in the nearby villages of Tafas and Dael.

Shortly after the collapse of negotiations over southern Syria, airstrikes intensified on rebel-held parts of Daraa province that borders Jordan.

Opposition negotiators and a spokesman said a six-member civilian and military committee of the southern rebels held a preliminary meeting along the administrative borders of neighbouring Sweida province.

Peace talks in the town of Bosra al-Sham, home to a UNESCO world heritage site, failed on Saturday when insurgents rejected Russian terms for their surrender, but began again on Sunday under the auspices of Jordan, rebel spokesman Ibrahim al-Jabawi said. So far, about 100 civilians have been killed in air raids and shelling since June 19, it said.

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