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Syrian forces widen south west offensive, some rebels leave for north

Syrian government forces widened their offensive in the country’s southwest on Sunday to Quneitra province, a region adjoining the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a war monitor and rebel sources said.

Government forces, backed by the Russian military, have captured most of the southwest’s Deraa province in a push that began in June. Rebels still hold a strip straddling Deraa and Quneitra provinces which adjoins the occupied Golan Heights. Islamic State-affiliated militants also occupy a pocket on the Jordanian border.

At the same time, a few hundred Syrian rebel fighters and their families were preparing to leave Deraa city, the birthplace of revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, to be taken on buses to opposition-held areas in the north under a surrender deal agreed last week.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and rebels said jets, which they believed to be Russian, bombed an opposition-held village in Quneitra province in the first such aerial strike in around a year.

Government forces, backed by the Russian military, have captured most of the southwest’s Deraa province in a push that began in June. Rebels still hold a strip straddling Deraa and Quneitra provinces which adjoins the occupied Golan Heights. Islamic State-affiliated militants also occupy a pocket on the Jordanian border.

At the same time, a few hundred Syrian rebel fighters and their families were preparing to leave Deraa city, the birthplace of revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, to be taken on buses to opposition-held areas in the north under a surrender deal agreed last week.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and rebels said jets, which they believed to be Russian, bombed an opposition-held village in Quneitra province in the first such aerial strike in around a year.

The Observatory said the forces had seized the village of Mashara, about 11 km (7 miles) from the Golan frontier, after heavy shelling, and were now trying to capture elevated land south of the village with shelling and air strikes.

But a rebel official in Quneitra denied Syrian forces had taken the village and said fighting continued.

“Over 28 (air) strikes struck Mashara and intense artillery and missile bombardment,” Suhaib al-Ruhail said. © 2018 Reuters. All Rights Reserved.

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