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Israel targets 'Syrian position' in Qunaitra in northern Golan Heights

09 Juillet 2018

A Russian-backed peace agreement was reached between the Syrian army and Syrian rebels in southern Syria on Friday, and thousands of Syrians who fled the fighting began to return to their homes in eastern Daraa, covered under the truce deal.

More than 30 towns have already agreed to return to regime control, and negotiations this week focussed on remaining rebel territory in Daraa's western countryside and the southern half of the provincial capital.

Most of the displaced had fled to Daraa's border with Jordan and to neighboring Quneitrah province near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, whipped by desert winds and temperatures as high as 110 degrees.

Jordan has been an important mediator with regard to Syrian rebels and the Russian government.

Osama al-Homsi, 26, told AFP he was hesitant to return to his hometown of Jeeza in southeastern Daraa after the deal.

After four days of reduced bombardment, the intense air strikes had resumed on Wednesday following the collapse of talks between insurgent groups and Russian officers.

Syrian government forces took up positions and raised state flags at the Nassib border crossing with Jordan on Saturday, celebrating the recapture of a key trade route that rebels held for three years.

Israel has informed Moscow and Washington that it agrees to the Syrian regime deploying troops in Golan along its borders on certain conditions, most notably that no Iran-backed militias are present, including Hizbullah.

Southwest Syria was declared a de-escalation zone previous year by Russia, Jordan and the United States.

According to the rebels, Moscow had previously rejected their demands for a phased surrender of their heavy weaponry and safe passage to opposition territory elsewhere for rebels and civilians who did not want to live under government rule.

Gen. Khaled Massaid, commander of the northern military region, told Al Rai and The Jordan Times that Syria is now capable of the full control of their side of the Jaber/Nassib border crossing, after the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) has done its part during the time when the border outpost has fallen in the hands of "terrorist organisations".

But Abazeed said the evacuation of opposition fighters and their families planned for Sunday was temporarily put on hold due to "an exchange of fire" between rebels and regime forces. "The Russians and the Syrian regime offer no safety", he said. More refugees will surely threaten Jordan's stability and security. Hezbollah was helping lead the offensive but keeping a low profile, pro-Damascus sources said.

A statement from the IDF said that the shell landed to the east of the border fence between Israel and Syria and that it would enforce the terms of the 1974 disengagement agreement with Syria.

The same source went on to deny recent reports on social media "regarding the alleged violation of Jordanian airspace by Syrian jet fighters".

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

Israel targets 'Syrian position' in Qunaitra in northern Golan Heights