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Assad forces move to secure Syria-Israel border zone

17 July 2018

The army said the rebel-held towns of Qusaiba, Sweisa and Ain Teineh had raised the national flag, but rebel sources said these towns were being bombarded into submission.

SOHR chief said regime forces had ousted rebels from Al Tiha in a military advance, while opposition forces in Al Hara had agreed a surrender deal.

The military confirmed that soldiers used bullhorns to tell approximately 200 Syrians to back away from the fence, but an IDF spokesperson said that this was due to concerns that they were approaching a live minefield near the border.

The AFP correspondent said hundreds of fighters and a few of their relatives had boarded around 15 buses which had then set off.

The transfers were part of a ceasefire deal brokered by government ally Russian Federation, and came after more than two weeks of ferocious bombardment of the city. The station said the evacuation of almost 1,000 people will likely be completed by Sunday.

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The government's push came after it had secured control of most of Daraa province in an offensive that began in June.

On Sunday fighters began to leave the Daraa Al-Balad neighborhood which had been under rebel control for years. "We discussed security and diplomatic issues in light of developments in the region, with Syria and Iran first and foremost, of course".

Sixteen trucks carrying 3,000 food parcels reached the towns of Nassib and Um Al Mayathen in Deraa province near a border crossing with Jordan, the Red Crescent said in a statement.

Another rebel source said artillery from nearby Syrian army barracks launched a salvo of missiles on the town.

The Daraa onslaught took less than three weeks to break the rebels' grip, with the regime now in control of more than four-fifths of that province's territory, the monitor said.

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Rebels and other groups still control 70 per cent of Quneitra, while the Syrian government is in full control of Sweida - a third southern province - the Observatory added.

Thousands of Syrians have fled towards the Israeli border on the Golan Heights seeking a safe zone and according to the United Nations, over 120,000 Syrians have fled their homes due to the offensive.

The fighting in southern Syria has put Israel on high alert.

Trump has shifted away from his predecessor Barack Obama's policy of demanding the ouster of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, a position the USA adopted before Russian Federation intervened militarily in late 2015 to turn the tide of the civil war in Assad's favor with Iran's help.

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.

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Assad forces move to secure Syria-Israel border zone