Syria Rebels Surrender Quneitra, Besieged Pro-Regime Villages Evacuated

Syria Rebels Surrender Quneitra, Besieged Pro-Regime Villages Evacuated

Thursday, 19 July, 2018 - 10:15
Smoke rises from Quneitra area, Syria July 15, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al Faqir
Asharq Al-Awsat
Syrian rebels have agreed with Russia to the negotiated surrender of Quneitra, a sensitive southwestern zone bordering the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday. 

Rebels have held most of the province but would hand over their territory as part of the surrender deal, said the monitor.

"The deal provides for a ceasefire, the handover of heavy and medium weapons, and the return of government institutions to the area," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian police forces would take over current opposition territory in the buffer zone, he told AFP.

Those that refuse the terms of the agreement would be granted safe passage to opposition territory in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, he added. 

Meanwhile, two pro-regime villages in Idlib were evacuated, state television reported, in an agreement between the Damascus government and insurgents who had laid siege to them for several years.

In exchange, the regime was due to release hundreds of prisoners from its jails.

Pro-Damascus TV stations said at least 20 buses carrying "militants" released from jail had crossed into rebel-held territory under the agreement.

Close to 7,000 people - civilians and fighters - were due to leave the loyalist Shiite villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib. They were being ferried out in a convoy of buses through rebel-held territory to nearby regime-held territory in Aleppo province, state TV footage showed.

More than 120 buses arrived at the villages on Wednesday to take out the residents and fighters. Ambulances left first, ferrying out the sick to a regime checkpoint.

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