BEIRUT/AMMAN: A cease-fire has been agreed for southern Syria between the government and rebels, a Jordanian official source said on Friday, amid fears of a gathering humanitarian catastrophe in a region sensitive to neighbors Jordan and Israel.
In Washington, a State Department official said the United Sattes could not confirm the truce report, and the situation in southern Syria remained “grim” with Russia and Syrian government forces continuing to bomb the area.
Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, which fights alongside Damascus, said meanwhile that a “very big victory” was near in southern Syria, where pro-government forces have made rapid gains in Daraa province.
State media said troops had marched into several towns and a rebel official said opposition front lines had collapsed.
Government forces backed by Russian air power have turned their focus to the southwest since defeating the last remaining besieged insurgent pockets including eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.
A war monitoring group said the offensive has uprooted more than 120,000 civilians in the southwest since it began last week. Tens of thousands of people have fled toward the border with Jordan and thousands more to the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.President Bashar Assad has pressed ahead with the offensive despite US warnings of “serious repercussions.” Washington has told rebels not to expect military support against the assault.
The campaign has shattered a “de-escalation” deal negotiated by the United States, Russia and Jordan that had mostly contained fighting in the southwest since last year.
A Jordanian official source told Reuters there were confirmed reports of a cease-fire in southern Syria that would lead to “reconciliation” between opposition and government forces. The source did not elaborate.
Jordan has been facilitating talks between rebel factions and Moscow over a deal that would end the violence in return for the return state rule to Daraa province.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein warned that many civilians risk being trapped between government forces, rebels, and Daesh which has a small foothold there, an outcome he said would be a “catastrophe.”
“The real concern is that we are going to see a repetition of what we saw in eastern Ghouta, the bloodshed, the suffering, the civilians being held, being under a siege,” UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring group, said the campaign had killed at least 98 civilians since June 19.
The chief Syrian opposition negotiator Nasr Al-Hariri has decried “US silence” over the offensive and said only a “malicious deal” could explain the lack of a US response.
The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump will have a detailed discussion about Syria when they meet in July.