Syria: Assad takes border crossing as rebels agree to deal

Syria, Russia resume airstrikes after cease-fire fails

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On Friday, rebel negotiators said that they were on the verge of a deal that would see them surrender their heavy weapons in return for a cease-fire and, for some, safe passage to the country's final opposition-held area in the north.

The Syrian government recovered the Nassib border crossing with Jordan, held by rebels for three years, state media reported, after an assault in insurgent territory along the frontier backed by Russian air strikes.

Rebels in Syria's battered south are returning to talks with government ally Russian Federation, an opposition spokesman said on Thursday, after almost a full day of unprecedented bombing on their positions.

As Assad seeks victory, there seems little hope of a negotiated peace, with six million Syrians overseas as refugees and 6.5 million more internally displaced.

Southwest Syria is a "de-escalation zone" agreed a year ago by Russia, Jordan and the United States to reduce violence.

Meanwhile, rebels and a jihadist group that pledged allegiance to Islamic State control part of Quneitra province located along the border with Israeli-occupied Golan. The Israeli military said it had struck a Syrian army post.

"Thanks to the efforts of Russian officers, militants in Busra al-Sham have handed over a battle tank, an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and an artillery gun to government forces".

Another statement from the joint operations room of the militants in southern Syria said they were willing to return to the talks, an apparent sign they fear huge losses among their ranks as a result of the government's anti-terror offensive in the area.

Russian military police would deploy instead with local forces overseen by Russia also deployed, they said.

Russia, which has been brokering talks with militants in southern, started a new round of talks with militants in southern Syria on Wednesday in an effort to make them hand back the areas they control to the Damascus government without fighting as the national army pushes ahead with a liberation operation there.

Most of the hospitals had shut down amid the destruction in insurgent territory, which now barely had access to water or electricity, he said.

Taking over Nassib crossing would allow the Syrian army to drive further southwards through the area immediately east of Deraa city, where rebel territory narrows to a thin corridor along the Jordanian border.

Joshua Landis, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma, tells VOA he thinks "Hezbollah will play an advisory role", but the "Syrian government has every incentive to take control of the [border with Israel]", which is close to the Jordanian border as well, "and not to allow Iran or Hezbollah to control Syria's foreign policy by going to war with Israel on the border".

Jordanian residents of Jabir village watch aid deliveries to Syrians fleeing government offensive in the south as smoke from unknown fire rises, July 3, 2018. The Norwegian Refugee Council has called this the largest displacement of Syria's seven-year war.

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