Rebels resume peace talks with Russians under Jordanian mediation

April FrancisJul 04, 2018

Israel beefed up its tank and artillery deployment on the Golan Heights frontier with Syria on Sunday, cautioning Damascus´ forces to keep a distance as they sweep rebel-held areas over the border.

Insurgent negotiators and a spokesman said a six-member civilian and military committee of the southern rebels held a preliminary meeting along the administrative borders of neighboring Sweida province.

Aid and rights groups have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis as the displaced are unable to enter Jordan or return to Daraa, with inadequate shelter and supplies.

Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said Amman is communicating with most of the parties to the Syrian crisis, mainly Russian Federation and the US, in an attempt to reach a cease-fire. Thousands have fled to the area, saying they thought the proximity to Israeli forces would deter Syrian air raids.

"I'll talk to him about everything", Mr Trump said aboard Air Force One on his way to New Jersey.

Yasser al-Khatib, of the activist-operated Nabaa news, provided a similar estimate.

They had come under regime control "after fighters handed over their weapons to the army in preparation for settling their status" with the regime, SANA said.

United Nations officials estimated only six days ago that up to 50,000 people had fled their homes in rebel-held towns and villages in response to the government's intense air and artillery strikes.

"The results of the analysis of the operational situation conducted by the command of the Northern district, made a decision to strengthen the 210th division on the Golan heights for more armored and artillery forces", the statement says. Israel seized much of the Golan from Syria in the 1967 war and annexed the strategic plateau, a move not recognised overseas. It has never confirmed claims that it provides military aid to Syrian rebels.

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"There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF", reads the resolution drafted by the United States and Russian Federation.

Daraa province, home to an estimated 750,000 civilians, comprises the largest section of Syria's rebel-held southwest, now one of the last two remaining opposition strongholds in the country.

The Observatory said that since the offensive began 11 days ago, 116 civilians have been killed including five on Saturday.

But other opposition bodies have rejected the deals. "The situation on the ground is disastrous", Hourani said.

A ceasefire has been agreed for southern Syria between the government and rebels, a Jordanian official source said on Friday, amid fears of a gathering humanitarian catastrophe in a region sensitive to neighbors Jordan and Israel.

The regime has chipped away at rebel-held territory in Daraa since the escalation began nearly two weeks ago.

The Syrian Civil Defense, volunteer first responders, said more than 150 airstrikes have targeted 12 towns and villages in Daraa since dawn. The Observatory says more than 100 civilians have been killed since an escalation in fighting on June 19.

The worldwide aid organization CARE said humanitarian workers in the south are struggling to deliver basic supplies.

Mr Guterres is "deeply alarmed by the military offensive in south-western Syria and its devastating toll on civilians", said a statement released by his spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Friday.

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