Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Rebels, families begin evacuating Syria's Daraa city

Smoke following an explosion in Syria is seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the Israeli Syrian border Iran Says Will Leave Iraq, Syria Only If Those Countries Want Them To
Ellis Copeland | 17 July, 2018, 20:38

Syrian government troops have intensified shelling in the southern province of Quneitra, which borders the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on Sunday and seized part of the area, a war monitor said.

Rebels still hold a strip straddling Deraa and Quneitra provinces which adjoins the occupied Golan Heights.

Syrian regime forces now hold more than 80 percent of Daraa province but scored fresh gains on Monday against remaining rebel forces in its western countryside and in neighbouring Quneitra.

Israel does not want its enemies Iran and Hezbollah, both allies of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who are well entrenched in that area, to move forces near its border.

Regime forces have retaken the area of Mashara, Abdel Rahman added.

"Over 28 (air) strikes struck Mashara and intense artillery and missile bombardment", Suhaib al-Ruhail said, according to the news agency. Numerous displaced are sheltering within the disengagement zone that is monitored by a United Nations force. Netanyahu's government has expressed concern about Assad's efforts to fight back rebels in southwest Syria near the border with Israel, as well as a growing Iranian military presence there.

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they take part in a family photo at the APEC summit. But the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, indicated last week that Israel would accept Syrian government control of the region.

They included rebels from the broader province, said Abdel Rahman.

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Dozens of Syrians approached the Israeli frontier on the Golan Heights on Tuesday in an apparent attempt to seek help or sanctuary from a Russian-backed Syrian army offensive, before turning back after a warning from Israeli forces.

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

Rebels began handing over their heavy weapons on Saturday and continued to do so on Sunday morning.

But Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior envoy of the Iranian leader who met with Mr. Putin Thursday, told reporters in Moscow Friday that Iran would not be forced out of Syria.

A rebel official, Abu Shaima, said at least 500 fighters were going to get on around 15 buses and that his bus was already on the road north to opposition-held Idlib province.

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.

Abu Bayan, a rebel commander, said most rebels in Deraa have made a decision to stay put rather than face an uncertain future in the opposition-held north, in the hope Damascus ally Russian Federation keeps to its promises to protect them against any retribution by Syrian authorities.

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