BEIRUT: Syrian activists say negotiations between government forces and the Daesh group for an exchange of prisoners in the country’s south have failed to reach an agreement.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that the talks were to lead to a deal under which Daesh would release captive civilians — about 30 women and children abducted last week during fighting in the southern province of Sweida.
In return, the government was to free 150 captured Daesh fighters and open a corridor for 100 besieged Daesh-linked fighters to leave the area of the fighting
The Observatory says that instead, government forces resumed airstrikes on Tuesday, targeting some of the besieged 100 Daesh-linked fighters near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Meanwhile, it was reported by Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV on Tuesday that the Syrian army and its allies had taken full control of the Yarmouk Basin in southwestern Syria after routing Daesh militants.
The basin borders Israel and Jordan and had been the last embattled pocket of the southwest after a sustained advance by President Bashar Assad's forces into the longtime rebel stronghold.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah has fought alongside Assad's forces as he has turned the tide of the civil war against rebels and militants with the help of Russian air power since 2015.
The army seized Daesh's main redoubt in the town of Shajara on Monday, which left just a few villages in the hands of a Daesh-affiliated faction, the Khalid Ibn Al-Walid army, that had controlled the Yarmouk Basin.
The rural area has been the last wedge of southwestern Syria with continued fighting, with the army having taken control of the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and most of Deraa province to the east.
Between 1,000 and 1,500 IS insurgents who had been holding their ground in the area yielded under intensive Russian bombing from the air, a regional intelligence source said.
Hundreds of air strikes also prompted thousands of civilians to flee and caused untold civilian casualties, according to another Western intelligence source.
Assad is in his strongest position since the early days of the seven-year war that has killed half a million people. Completing his recovery of the southwest would leave rebels largely confined to a stretch of territory in the northwest.