By - Chase Lacy
By – Chase Lacy
Rabat – Reports have surfaced that Jordanian-backed talks are underway between the Russian-backed Syria regime forces and the rebel factions in Syria’s southern province of Deraa.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a number of towns, including Bosra al-Sham near the provincial capital Deraa, are currently engaged in talks to cede the towns to the Assad regime forces, which will be a major blow to the rebel forces reeling from the massive government offensive.
The Russians involved in the negotiations want a full surrender of the rebel forces, and the rebels want Jordan to guarantee Deraa province’s 800,000 residents. The deal includes the rebel factions handing over their armored vehicles and heavy and medium weapons but keeping their light arms.
Regime forces will be allowed to reenter the towns, raise the Syrian flag over the government buildings, and resume their operations.
Rebel negotiating committees seriously mistrust the regime and their Russian backers, with airstrikes and shellings still in force. Since Saturday, there has been heavy fighting and bombardment in the area of Tafas, northwest of Deraa, and fighting in the areas between Bosra al-Sham and Deraa.
Adnan Masalmeh, a coordinator for the opposition committee said, “The Russian insistence on attempting to impose conditions, their unreadiness to stop the air strikes during negotiations, all this gives us more reason for lack of trust and justified fear.”
The regime launched an offensive on June 19 to capture the rebel-held southern provinces of Deraa, Quneitra, and Sweida. The region is part of the deescalation zone agreed to by Russia, Jordan, and the US in July 2017.
The SOHR has reported that at least 123 regime forces, 84 rebel fighters, and 132 civilians have been killed since the offensive began on June 19. The UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that at least 160,000 have been displaced, many fleeing to the closed Jordanian and Israeli borders.
There are three major actors in the southern region. The regime controls approximately 58 percent of the territory, the rebel factions 35.4 percent, and an ISIS-linked group (Jaysh Khaled Ibn Al-Waleed) 6.6 percent.
The south is among the last rebel strongholds after the enclaves around Damascus and Homs fell earlier this year. If Deraa falls, Idlib in the northwest will remain the last rebel stronghold.