Syrian regime forces entered and took over large parts of Daraa in south-western Syria yesterday – a symbolic victory for Assad given Daraa was the first area where anti-regime protests began in 2011.
A Russian military police unit also entered rebel-held areas and began negotiations for the handover to regime rule. Daraa’s governor Mohamad al-Hanous said that government forces are now in control of 80 per cent of the city.
The Syria state news agency Sana said: “Units of the Syrian Arab army entered the district of Daraa al-Balad and raised the national flag in the main square … a declaration that Daraa is now clear of terrorism.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels were still in the city but are expected to depart soon for Idlib in the north.
The surrender deal resembles those agreed in other parts of Syria. The rebel’s heavy weapons will be handed over and AP reported that rebel fighters have the option of accepting an amnesty offer from the Government or leaving Daraa with their families to other rebel-held parts of the country.
The Syrian government launched its offensive to capture Daraa last month, in what had been agreed was a “de-escalation” zone. The US had warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies that violations of the de-escalation zone agreed last year would have “serious repercussions” and pledged “firm and appropriate measures”.
However, it has also made it clear to Syrian rebels that they should not expect US military support – telling the Free Syrian Army that “you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us”.