Published: Thu, July 19, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Syrians fleeing Assad's forces turned away by Israeli soldiers

Syrians fleeing Assad's forces turned away by Israeli soldiers

Ahmad Masalmeh, a media activist formerly based in the southern city, says fighters have the option of accepting an offer of amnesty from the government, or leaving Daraa with their families to other rebel-held parts of the country.

"We now are working on the logistical arrangements", said an Islamist rebel source familiar with the secret negotiations that Turkey was also involved in.

The clashes left 18 regime forces and 13 rebels and allied Daesh members dead, the monitor said.

"Syrian regime forces captured the town of Al-Hara, as well as Samlin, Al-Tiha and Zimrin", said observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

An AFP photographer there saw a plume of smoke emerging from the sloping hilltop overlooking agricultural plains on Monday.

Air strikes killed seven civilians in Quneitra, which has been under bombardment since Sunday in a bid to retake the southwestern province from rebels, after winning back most of the neighbouring governorate of Daraa in less than a month. The evacuees' first stop is the government-controlled city of Aleppo.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have already been displaced by recent fighting.

Alongside the military offensive, the government has struck "reconciliation" deals, essentially a negotiated capitulation in a number of villages that have been in rebel hands for years, to restore government control there.

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The brief protest came as Syrian and Russian airstrikes have intensified in the Quneitra countryside and the southwestern Daraa province.

On Thursday, the Assad forces conquered the town of Daraa, the capital of the province of the same name. Opposition forces, in an agreement brokered by Russian Federation, have also handed heavy weaponry and equipment over to government forces.

Syrian state television confirmed the transfers had begun, broadcasting images of white buses they said were carrying the fighters, their blue curtains drawn, surrounded by military forces.

On Sunday, regime forces battered Quneitra province with hundreds of missiles and seized the town of Masshara, according to the Observatory.

Lama Fakih, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, said both the Israeli and Jordanian governments have an obligation to not push back fleeing asylum seekers. The violence is taking place around 4 km from the line marking the start of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force zone, an area monitored by a UN force since 1974 in the wake of the Arab-Israeli War.

Israel has been on high alert since hostilities erupted last month in the south.

State news agency SANA said rebels were surrendering more heavy and medium weaponry in Deraa on Sunday.

It says its main priority is preventing its archfoe Iran, a key backer of Assad, from building up its military installations in Syria. Israel did not issue any comments on the incident.

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