Syrian troops re­take city that sparked 7-year civil war

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - WORLD -

DARAA, SYRIA— Syria’s army en­tered rebel-held parts of Daraa city on Thurs­day, rais­ing the Syrian flag in the cra­dle of the coun­try’s seven-year civil war.

“Syrian army units en­ter Daraa al-Balad and raise the na­tional flag in the main square,” the of­fi­cial news agency Sana re­ported Thurs­day after­noon.

Deal with rebels

Late Wed­nes­day, it had said the regime and rebels had reached a deal for op­po­si­tion fight­ers to hand over their heavy weapons in op­po­si­tion-held parts of the city.

On Thurs­day, an AFP cor­re­spon­dent in Daraa al-Balad saw a convoy of Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice and regime of­fi­cers en­ter the city with jour­nal­ists to raise the flag.

But the Syrian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a Bri­tain­based war mon­i­tor, said the flag rais­ing on Thurs­day was merely “sym­bolic.”

Mea­sures to im­ple­ment the so-called rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deal for rebel-held parts of the city had not yet been im­ple­mented, it said.

“The rebels are still in­side Daraa city,” Ob­ser­va­tory head Rami Ab­del Rah­man said, but had not yet handed over their heavy weapons and there were no signs of any evac­u­a­tions.

‘Full con­trol?’

Un­der the deal, “those (rebels) who want to set­tle their sta­tus with the regime will hand over their heavy weapons, keep their light arms and re­main in the city,” he said.

“Those who refuse the deal will head out to­wards the north of Syria.”

The rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deal for Daraa city is the lat­est in a string of such agree­ments that have seen the Rus­sia-backed regime re­take large parts of the coun­try since 2015.

Pat­tern of per­sua­sion

They usu­ally fol­low blis­ter­ing mil­i­tary cam­paigns and some­times sti­fling sieges that ef­fec­tively force the rebels into sur­ren­der­ing.

Pre­vi­ous such deals have seen thou­sands of rebels bused up to ar­eas still un­der op­po­si­tion con­trol in the north of the coun­try.

Ac­tivist Omar al-Hariri said the Rus­sian mil­i­tary and regime troops had ex­ited Daraa city on Thurs­day af­ter rais­ing the flag.

“We ex­pect those against the so-called rec­on­cil­i­a­tion to be evac­u­ated in the next few days,” said the ac­tivist in­side the city.

—AFP

REBEL NOMORE A Syrian na­tional flag flut­ters at a street in Daraa al-Balad, where the Syrian Civil War started in 2011.

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