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Tens of thousands return home after south Syria ceasefire deal

AFP  |  Beirut 

Tens of thousands have returned to their homes in since a deal between regime ally and rebels to end more than two weeks of deadly bombardment, a monitor said today.

The deal was largely holding despite air strikes on two areas that killed four civilians, the for Human Rights monitoring group said, as rebel evacuations under the deal were postponed.

President's regime is determined to retake control of the key southern province of bordering and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, seven years after protests there sparked Syria's civil war.

Since June 19, a deadly regime bombardment campaign on the province had caused more than 320,000 people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations, many to the sealed border with

On Friday, rebels and the regime announced a deal, providing for opposition fighters to hand over their heavy weapons and paving the way for a regime takeover of the province.

More than 60,000 people have since hit the road from the Jordanian frontier, heading back to their homes in the east or west of the province, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Today, the returns were continuing, the Observatory said, even as regime warplanes pounded two areas of the province.

Three civilians were killed in air strikes on Um al-Mayazeen, just five kilometres (three miles) north of the Jordanian border, said the Britain-based monitor.

"Regime forces launched an assault on the village," Observatory said, two days after they retook control of the key border crossing of Nassib to its south.

Earlier, rebel fire on a regime convoy travelling near Um on the highway from the border had killed several soldiers, said, without providing a toll.

A regime air strike on the rebel-held half of the provincial capital of also killed one civilian, he said. On Friday, regime forces retook control of Nassib, near which thousands of families had set up makeshift tents for shelter.

Under the deal, regime forces were to deploy along the frontier with Jordan, while rebels were to hand over their heavy weapons. Opposition fighters were also given the option of being bused out to rebel-held areas in

But a rebel said the evacuation of opposition fighters and their families planned for today was temporarily put on hold. "A hundred buses were supposed to arrive but (the operation) has been postponed to a later date, in around two days," the said.

"There was an exchange of fire between both sides and the first (wave) has been postponed."

An Islamic State jihadist group affiliate, which holds a small pocket in the southwest of Daraa, is excluded from the ceasefire deal. The regime bombardment campaign on rebel-held areas in since June 19 had killed more than 160 civilians, the Observatory says.

Before the deal was announced, the advance by Russia-backed regime forces had doubled their control of territory in the province to more than 60 per cent.

Since intervened on Assad's side in Syria's conflict in 2015, the regime has notched up a series of victories against rebels and jihadists in the country.

Regime forces, who secured the capital earlier this year, now control more than 60 percent of the country, according to the Observatory. The deal between rebels and announced for Daraa is the latest in a string of such accords to see regain control of rebel-held areas.

These often come after blistering offensives or crippling sieges, which effectively force the rebels into the so-called "reconciliation" deals. Syria's war has killed 3,50,000 people and displaced millions of others since it started with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests in 2011.

Many Syrians have sought refuge from the war in neighbouring countries, including Jordan, which says it has taken in around 1.3 million Syrian refugees. last month said its frontier, which has been closed since 2016, would remain so to any more Syrians fleeing the conflict.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, July 08 2018. 17:55 IST