Syrian troops retake city that sparked 7-year civil war
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.
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.
REBEL NOMORE A Syrian national flag flutters at a street in Daraa al-Balad, where the Syrian Civil War started in 2011.