AMMAN/BEIRUT: A major insurgent-held town in southwestern Syria has accepted the return of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, pro-government media and a war monitor said on Sunday, though some local activists and rebels disputed a deal had been completed.
Losing Bosra al-Sham, a major town near the provincial capital of Deraa, would be a significant loss for the opposition in the teeth of a Russian-backed Syrian army offensive in the southwest that has taken chunks of rebel territory.
Jordan on Sunday mediated a new round of talks between rebels in the southwest and Assad’s main ally Russia, seeking a wider truce in the area to avert more bloodshed and another wave of displaced people near its border.
Russia has played a critical role in supporting Assad’s two-week offensive with air power and negotiating local deals initially overseen by its military police.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a state television correspondent and media run by Assad’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah said insurgents in Bosra al-Sham, east of the provincial capital Deraa had agreed a deal and were handing over heavy weapons.
Activists distributed footage of armoured vehicles being handed to Russian troops, though some local sources said it was a goodwill gesture as talks went on, rather than a sign that a surrender deal was being implemented.
Diplomatic sources said the wider negotiations were difficult, with Russia insisting on sweeping surrender terms, and rebels seeking an agreement that would make Jordan a guarantor of the safety of Deraa province’s 800,000 civilians.
The United Nations said on Friday at least 160,000 people had already fled their homes.
Opposition officials involved in steering the rebel negotiating team said continued air strikes during the talks had undermined trust in the process.
Fighting and bombardment on Sunday initially focused on the area around Tafas, northwest of Deraa, along with heavy…
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