Syrian army besiege rebel enclave in southern city of Daraa

Civilians pass by a Syrian forces’ tank of President Bashar Assad in Daraa on Satuday, July 7. (Reuters)
Updated 09 July 2018
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Syrian army besiege rebel enclave in southern city of Daraa

  • The return of Daraa to Bashar Assad’s complete control would deal a big psychological blow to the opposition
  • A surrender deal was reached on Friday between Russian officers and rebel representatives to give up Daraa city along with other towns in the southern province that borders Jordan

AMMAN: The Syrian army and allied troops on Monday laid siege to the rebel-held enclave in Daraa and were poised to gain complete control of the city where the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule first erupted, rebels said.
Abu Shaima, a spokesman for the opposition in the southern Syrian city, said several thousand people were now encircled after the army pushed into a base west of the city without a fight.
“The army and its militias have besieged Daraa completely,” the rebel spokesman said.
The return of Daraa to Assad’s complete control would deal a big psychological blow to the opposition since the city came to epitomise the early peaceful protests against authoritarian rule that spread across Syria. The protests were violently crushed and paved the way for the bloody civil war.
A surrender deal was reached on Friday between Russian officers and rebel representatives to give up Daraa city along with other towns in the southern province that borders Jordan in another victory for Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies.
Before the deal, many towns and villages in Daraa province were forced to agree to return to state control after a major Russian aerial bombing campaign on urban centers that led to the largest displacement of civilians in the more than seven-year long conflict.
As part of the deal, opposition fighters not ready to make peace with the army must first be allowed to evacuate to opposition-held areas in northern Syria before the handover of weapons and the return of state sovereignty.
“There are fighters who want to go to (opposition-held) Idlib but this was rejected after we were besieged,” said Abu Shaima, referring to a meeting held on Sunday in which he said a go-between with Syrian army had flatly rejected their demands to leave.
The rebels say the deal also does not allow the army to move into their bastions and allows for setting up local forces from ex-rebels under the oversight of Russian military police.
“There is a lot of fear about the unknown fate and we do not trust the Russians or regime,” Shaima added saying remaining rebels in Daraa city were still holding their positions on its frontlines.
Another opposition negotiator said another round of talks with Russian officers was planned this afternoon over the fate of the rebel-held bastion and security arrangements once it returns to state rule.
“We will work with the Russians on setting up a local force from the inhabitants that will prevent the entry of the army to Daraa with Russian guarantees,” Abu Jihad, a negotiator said.


Syria's Kurds hand three Russian orphans to Moscow

Updated 25 March 2019
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Syria's Kurds hand three Russian orphans to Moscow

  • Three Russian orphans were handed to a delegation from Moscow who will transfer them back home

QAMISHLI: The Kurdish administration in northeast Syria said Monday it handed over three Russian orphans to a delegation from Moscow who will transfer them back home.
Kurdish foreign affairs official Abdel Karim Omar said the children, aged five to seven, are being sent back at the request of Russia.
He told AFP their parents had been affiliated with the Daesh group, although it was not immediately clear how or when they arrived in Syria.
A member of the Russian government delegation said the siblings are from the country's North Caucasus region. The majority-Muslim southern territory is home to most of the Russians that joined Daesh.
Nelly Kouskova said the children were orphaned nearly one year ago, without providing details.
Their aunt back in Russia had asked authorities to help bring them home, Kouskova told a press conference.
Since the death of their parents the children have been living in the Al-Hol camp, a Kurdish-run shelter designed to accomodate 20,000 people.
But due to the mass exodus of people fleeing the battle to oust Daesh from its final strip of territory -- over which Kurdish-led forces claimed victory on Saturday -- the numbers have swelled to 70,000.
More than 9,000 foreigners, including over 6,500 children, are being held in the overcrowded camp, the Kurdish administration said on Monday.
Syria's Kurds have repeatedly called for the repatriation of foreign Daesh suspects and their relatives.
But the home countries of suspected Daesh members are reluctant to take them back, due to potential security risks and the likely public backlash.
Russia, however, can be seen as a pioneer in systematically returning children of suspected jihadists home.
Last month, 27 children aged four to 13 were flown from Iraq to the Moscow region. That followed the repatriation from Iraq of 30 children in late December.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in late 2017 called the drive to return the children "a very honourable and correct deed" and promised to help.
Some other foreign governments have also taken steps to bring the children of militants home.
France has repatriated five orphaned children of French militants' from camps in northeast Syria, the government said on March 15, in the first such transfer.
Belgium has said it will help the repatriation of children younger than 10, as long as the link with one Belgian parent is proven.