BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces shelled opposition-held parts of a volatile southern city on Monday killing at least one person, while insurgents killed four soldiers after Russia-brokered talks to end the presence of opposition fighters in the area collapsed.
Syria’s pro-regime media reported that Bashar Assad’s forces retaliated against fire by opposition fighters inside the city of Daraa and that attacks on army checkpoints in the city left four soldiers dead and 15 wounded.
It said several civilians were wounded in insurgent shelling of regime-occupied parts of Daraa.
The opposition blamed the regime for the escalation, saying that troops were pressing an offensive to force insurgents to surrender.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the government’s elite 4th Division and pro-regime gunmen tried to storm the opposition-held old quarter of Daraa known as Daraa Al-Balad.
At least one person was killed and another wounded in shelling on Daraa Al-Balad, according to the opposition’s Syrian civil defense, also known as the White Helmets.
Russia has been mediating a new deal to end the recent fighting in Daraa under which insurgents who reject the deal will have to leave the region.
Last week, Syrian authorities ordered about 100 gunmen to leave Daraa Al-Balad.
A few left to opposition-held areas in the north, but dozens defied the order and stayed.
As part of the deal, regime forces were supposed to enter Daraa Al-Balad after the departure of the hardcore opposition gunmen.
Other insurgents who accept the deal would have to hand over their weapons in return for amnesty.
Daraa province became known as the cradle of the uprising against Syrian leader Bashar Assad that erupted in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring revolts.
It was reoccupied by Syrian regime troops in 2018. Assad has since regained control of most of the country with the help of Russia and Iran. The Russian-mediated deal in 2018 allowed some of the province’s armed opposition to remain in their former strongholds, in charge of security.
Regime troops retained control of the province, but security duties were divided.
Tensions regularly erupted and regime troops tried several times to take over areas under opposition control.
Separately, in a rare incident in the central city of Hama on Monday, two gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead two policemen, pro-regime media reported.