With Assad on march, Syria rebels say cease fire agreed


South Syrian rebels said on Friday they had agreed to cease fire and start handing over heavy weapons in a deal mediated by Russian Federation that will restore state sovereignty over areas they hold in Deraa province after a fierce government offensive.

Near the start of the government's offensive, Washington indicated it would respond to violations of the cease-fire deal, but it has not done so yet and rebels said it had told them to expect no American military help.

Rebel sources said Russian Federation would guarantee the safe return of civilians who fled the government offensive in the biggest exodus of the war, with 320,000 people uprooted. "The war and more fighting won't stop the struggles of the Syrian people".

As Assad seeks victory, there seems little hope of a negotiated peace, with six million Syrians overseas as refugees and 6.5 million more internally displaced.

The bombing barrage sent an estimated 320,000 civilians fleeing the area in what appeared to be one of the fastest displacements in Syria's seven-year civil war, prompting an global outcry and meetings at the United Nations.

Russian Federation has been brokering talks for the surrender of rebel-held territory in southern Syria, in areas bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel's military said it had hit a Syrian army post in that area.

"Thanks to the efforts of Russian officers, militants in Busra al-Sham have handed over a battle tank, an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and an artillery gun to government forces".

Russian guarantees will also be extended to rebel fighters who wish to "settle their status" with the government - a process by which former insurgents accept to live under state rule again, the sources said.

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Moscow has been brokering talks with rebels in southern Syria that have already seen more than 30 towns agree to fall back under regime control. Rebels have walked away from negotiations in the past if they deem the terms too tough.

On June 18, Syrian government troops launched an operation against the terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) and other armed opposition groups affiliated with it to regain government control of the southern province of Daraa.

The initial phases will cover the area along the border with Jordan, rather than the parts of northwestern Deraa around the city of Nawa, he said.

Most of the hospitals had shut down amid the destruction in insurgent territory, which now barely had access to water or electricity, he said.

The Syrian Army has tried twice yesterday to advance on the Nassib border crossing, failing both times due to rebel resistance.

Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah is helping to lead the offensive in south Syria but keeping a low profile, pro-Damascus sources have said, in defiance of Israeli demands.

The UN refugee agency has urged Jordan to open its borders to Syrians fleeing their homes.