Russian jets hit Syrian south, UN urges Jordan to open border

Syrian forces reach Jordanian border crossing as rebels negotiate surrender

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said yesterday that the return of tens of thousands of displaced Syrians in southern Syria was the kingdom's top priority and that he had discussed "practical guarantees" with concerned parties.

Pedersen said the United Nations organizations need to respond to the populations in southwest Syria, especially the displaced returning home from the Jordanian border and from near the Golan Heights, where they have fled airstrikes and shelling in the past weeks.

Jordanian soldiers control the border between Syria and Jordan, near the town of Nasib, southern Syria.

Nabaa Media, an opposition activist collective, said the latest government assault on the area killed several people in the previous 24 hours including a woman and her four children in a rebel-held village in Daraa.

The Jordanian borders have been closed since 2015, and a Syrian military officer said the decision to reopen the crossing is a political one between both countries.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not allow Iran to establish a foothold in Syria and has conducted numerous air raids over the past year targeting Iranian assets in Syria.

Moscow has been brokering talks with rebel towns for negotiated surrenders in a carrot-and-stick strategy that it and the regime have used to retake other territory, including the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus earlier this year.

Both Israel and Jordan, which beefed up their border controls, said they would not let refugees in but distributed aid inside Syria.

Government forces would then take control of a key route running along the border with Jordan, up to the Nassib border crossing.

The deal is to be rolled out across rebel-held areas of Deraa in phases, but there was no timeline as yet, said Abu Shaima, spokesman for an operations room for rebels under the Free Syrian Army banner.

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

Rebels who comply with the deal will be allowed to remain in Daraa.

Although the main rebel groups in the eastern parts of Daraa province have accepted to hand over their weapons as part of the Russian-mediated deal, some have vowed to continue fighting, mostly in western parts of Daraa and the nearby Quneitra region on the front with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

As Assad seeks victory, there seems little hope of a negotiated peace, with six million Syrian refugees overseas and 6.5 million more internally displaced. The total number of displaced by the offensive now stands at over 320,000 people.

For the anti-Assad rebels, losing the southwest will reduce their territory to a region of the northwest bordering Turkey and a patch of desert in the east where US forces are stationed near the border with Iraq and Jordan.

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