Syria: Assad takes border crossing as rebels agree to deal

Smoke rises in Deraa area Syria in this handout released

Smoke rises in Deraa area Syria in this handout released

On Friday, rebel negotiators said that they were on the verge of a deal that would see them surrender their heavy weapons in return for a cease-fire and, for some, safe passage to the country's final opposition-held area in the north.

During the renewed fighting, regime forces retook control of a security checkpoint on the Jordanian border for the first time in more than three years, the monitoring group said.

Jabawi added that Russian military police would be deployed along the border with Jordan, including the Naseeb border crossing, and that rebels opposed to the deal will be evacuated to rebel-held regions in northern Syria.

The deal is to be rolled out across rebel-held areas of Deraa in phases, but there is no timeline as yet, said Abu Shaima, spokesman for an operations room for rebels under the Free Syrian Army banner.

Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in London which advocates anti-government militants, said that government attacks on militant positions in Dara'a and Quneitra came to a stop following militants' announcement for the resumption of the talks.

With the help of Russian air power, the government's assault has swept into swathes of Daraa over the past two weeks, shrinking one of Syria's last rebel strongholds.

Israel struck a Syrian village in Quneitra on Friday, causing no casualties, after a shell launched from there landed in the buffer zone, the Israeli military said.

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Waves of air strikes pounded rebel-held areas of southern Syria after the failure a day earlier of Russian-brokered talks to end the offensive in Daraa province, which has killed dozens and forced tens of thousands from their homes. The Norwegian Refugee Council has called this the largest displacement of Syria's seven-year war.

The negotiations collapsed on Wednesday, with rebels blaming Russian Federation, ushering in a day-long volley of air strikes, barrel bombs, and missiles that ultimately pressured rebels to return to the table.

They resumed talks at around midday on Friday.

"The rebel delegation is on its way to the meeting", Hussein Abazeed, spokesman for the south's joint rebel command, told AFP mid-morning Friday.

In May 2017, the Syrian ceasefire guarantor nations, namely Russia, Iran and Turkey, signed a memorandum in Astana on setting up four de-escalation zones in Syria.

Rebels then handed some 275 square kilometers of territory near the border to government forces without a fight, said observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council convened in an urgent closed-door meeting to discuss the south, but Russian Federation blocked the council from adopting a statement.

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