Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Uganda protests: 1 dead, several injured during clashes with police

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

#MeToo and the court of public opinion

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

S&P 500 ties record for longest bull run

Read more

THE DEBATE

Day 100 for Oleg Sentsov: Crimean-born filmmaker on indefinite hunger strike

Read more

IN THE PRESS

‘Asia Weinstein’: Italian press relishes Argento assault allegations

Read more

FOCUS

Venezuela: Worsening economic crisis erodes Chavista stronghold

Read more

ENCORE!

Strike a pose: The Studio Harcourt on capturing star profiles across the decades

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Jacob Zuma corruption scandal: Influence-peddling inquiry opens

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

#MeToo accuser accused in turn

Read more

Battered Syria rebels to meet Russian brokers for new talks

© AFP | Smoke rises above rebel-held areas of the city of Daraa during reported air strikes by Syrian regime forces on July 5, 2018

DARAA (SYRIA) (AFP) - 

Rebels in Syria's battered south were expected to meet with Russian negotiators on Friday after a ferocious 24-hour bombing blitz pushed them to agree to resume talks.

Moscow, a key ally of the Damascus regime, has been brokering talks for the negotiated surrender of rebels in areas of southern Syria bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

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

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

He accused Russia of pursuing a "scorched earth policy" to force rebels back into negotiations.

The joint command said on Thursday it would be willing to hold "a new round of negotiations" if a halt to hostilities was immediately put into place.

As rebels made their announcement, bombardment died down across swathes of the south, according to an AFP correspondent on the outskirts of Daraa city and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

By Friday morning, intermittent strikes and barrel bombs were hitting Daraa province's eastern countryside but overall the raids were less intense than the previous day.

After securing areas around the capital this year, President Bashar al-Assad last month turned to the south, launching a bombing campaign on rebel areas on June 19.

Moscow, which intervened militarily in Syria in 2015, simultaneously began brokering talks, employing a carrot-and-stick strategy that has allowed the regime to recapture significant territory.

- Aiming at border post -

Under such deals, rebels hand over heavy weapons, local police take control of the area and government institutions resume working there.

More than 30 rebel towns have agreed to fall back under regime control through these agreements, doubling the government's hold on Daraa province to around two-thirds.

On Thursday, regime forces made sweeping advances on the border with Jordan, seizing their first security post there in more than three years, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Rebels then handed over some 275 square kilometres (105 square miles) of border territory without a fight, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

But rebels still hold Daraa's western countryside, the southern half of the divided provincial capital, and the prized Nassib border crossing.

The Observatory said regime forces had moved closer to Nassib on Friday.

"After the town of Al-Mutaaiyah agreed to the regime taking over, government forces are now four kilometres east of the crossing," Abdel Rahman said.

Syria's cash-strapped government hopes to recapture Nassib so that it can reopen trade with Jordan to the south.

Daraa is considered the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Assad that triggered Syria's war.

Rebel territory in the south was included in a ceasefire brokered last year by Russia, the United States, and Jordan, but that has done little to stem violence.

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

More than 150 civilians have been killed since the start of the offensive, according to the Observatory.

The offensive has pushed more than 320,000 people to flee, according to the UN, many to the closed border with Jordan or west near the Israeli-occupied Golan.

© 2018 AFP