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Syrian army controls over 58 pct of Daraa amid progress in negotiations

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The Syrian army has become in control of over 58 percent of Syria's southern province of Daraa, as a result of the progress made in negotiations between Damascus' ally Russia and the militant groups in that key province near Jordan, a monitor group reported Sunday.

The negotiations between the Russians and the militants have achieved a progress, as the towns of Busra al-Sham and Jizeh have joined the reconciliation deal with the Syrian government side, after several towns accepted to reconcile with the government, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based watchdog group said the deal will see the rebels in those towns handing over their heavy and medium-ranged weapons while keeping the light arms.

Also, the rebels will hoist the Syrian government flag over the government buildings as a prelude to having the government institutions back to those areas akin to what happened in several other towns.

The military operations and the reconciliations, which are going hand in hand in Daraa, have enabled the government forces of controlling 58 percent of Daraa.

Earlier in the day, the observatory said negotiations have been ongoing in Daraa since Friday in a bid to reach a settlement for the conflict there amid reports that the Russians have made a proposal to the rebels in Daraa.

The report said that the talks are backed by Jordan, which has a sway on the militants in that area near the Jordanian border.

The rebel factions, which would surrender the weapons and accept the deal, could enlist in the Fifth Legion, a newly-established unit in the Syrian army.

The Fifth Legion has been supervised by Russia, to join in the battles against the terror-designated groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and like-minded groups, said the observatory.

According to the proposal, the Russian and Syrian police units would deploy in Daraa as well as the government institutions that should return to operate in that province, but the Syrian army won't enter the rebel-held areas there for now.

The observatory said the Russian side also guaranteed that no civilians or fighters would be apprehended on checkpoints that would be set up in Daraa should the proposal was agreed upon and went into effect.

As for the border crossing with Jordan, the Russians proposed that the Syrian customs and police will re-control the Nasib border point with Jordan and the Fifth Legion forces would be deployed on the border between Daraa and Jordan as well as the borderline with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The observatory said the negotiations are underway in tandem with airstrikes that have returned to target areas in the town of Tafas in the northwestern countryside of Daraa. It added that calm prevails other parts of Daraa except for Tafas, as the army is trying to isolate and control it.

In the meantime, a military source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that the rebels in Tafas have rejected the reconciliation offer with the government forces and instead pledged alliance with the Khalid Bin al-Walid militant group, which is also an allied rebel group with IS.

The Syrian army started the operation against the rebels in Daraa 11 days ago, with the aim of entirely capturing the rebel-held areas due to the strategic location of Daraa near Jordan.

The state media said the military operations are going in tandem with the reconciliation efforts, which explains the situation where several towns accepted the entry of the Syrian army without battles.

The Syrian army is fighting the rebels, including the IS and the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, in the countryside of Daraa, as well as the in the countryside of Sweida and the Quneitra province near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Daraa has a symbolic significance as it was the birthplace of the Syrian war that erupted in 2011, and securing it will be a big victory for the Syrian army both symbolically and militarily as the rebels have used the Jordanian border to bring in arms and fighters throughout the Syrian war.

The observatory said over 120,000 civilians have been displaced since the beginning of the battles in Daraa, adding that 126 civilians have so far been killed there.


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