Syrian rebels in Daraa surrender weapons

More than 80% of the province is now under regime control

Syrian rebels in the southern city of Daraa were surrendering their heavy weapons to government forces on Saturday, state media said, under a deal brokered by regime ally Russia.

State news agency SANA said opposition fighters in the neighbourhood of Daraa al-Balad, a district in the city’s rebel-held southern half, handed over heavy ammunition and other equipment. It came a day after the regime and rebels began dismantling the dirt barriers that had divided the city for years. The pact reached on Wednesday will see Daraa city — the cradle of Syria’s seven-year uprising — fall back into government control.

Negotiated by Moscow, it provides for rebels to hand over heavy- and medium-duty weapons and to “reconcile” legally with the government, according to state media. The terms mirror a broader deal announced on July 6 for the entire province of Daraa, which would be implemented in three stages: the eastern countryside first, then the city, and finally the province’s west.

While rebels have handed over weapons to government forces in dozens of towns, no transfers of fighters or civilians to the opposition-held north have taken place yet. The Daraa deals are the latest in a string of so-called “reconciliation” agreements that typically follow military offensives.

Beginning on June 19, Syrian and Russian bombardment pounded rebel areas in Daraa and the neighbouring province of Quneitra, ostensibly protected by an internationally agreed ceasefire.

The onslaught came to an end with the July 6 ceasefire.

Regime forces now hold more than 80% of Daraa province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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