Syria state media confirms deal with rebels for Daraa city

Damascus: Syrian state media on Wednesday confirmed a deal between the regime and rebels for opposition fighters to hand over their heavy weapons in the southern city of Daraa.

On Friday, an agreement was announced for the wider province of the same name, the cradle of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

But the implementation was set to occur in three stages: first in the east of the province, then rebel-held parts of the provincial capital Daraa, and finally the province’s west.

“A deal has been reached between the Syrian state and the terrorist groups in Daraa al-Balad,” state news agency SANA reported, referring to the rebels.

Under the deal for opposition-held areas of Daraa city, rebels are to hand over their heavy and medium-sized weapons, it said.

It would also provide for “fighters who wish to do so to settle their status with the regime” and stay, “and for those who refuse the agreement to leave the city”, it said.

It is the latest in a string of such so-called “reconciliation” deals that have allowed the Russia-backed regime to retake large parts of the country since 2015.

These agreements often come after blistering military campaigns, and see thousands of rebel fighters evacuated on buses to areas still held by the opposition in the north of the country.

The deal announced Friday came more than two weeks into a government offensive on rebel-held areas of southern Syria close to Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Regime forces have now retaken more than 80 percent of Daraa province, according to Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Some western areas of the province remain under opposition control, while the deal does not include a southwestern patch held by an affiliate of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Syria’s conflict has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.

Agence France-Presse

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