Truce reached in Syria’s Deraa after months of fighting

A halt in fighting was announced on Wednesday after Russian generals offered a new plan that appeared to meet some of the rebel demands to involve the Russian military police in patrolling Deraa al-Balad – a southern district of Deraa city – while allowing for the first time a Syrian army security presence in the stronghold.

Rebels said they accepted the plan while the army said it would give its response on Wednesday to the deal, which also allows the Syrian and Russian flags to be raised in the opposition bastion, but gives Moscow guarantees that Iranian-backed army units cannot act with impunity.

Army sources told Reuters news agency Iranian-backed troops that encircled the rebel enclave for the last two months and brought forward reinforcements on Monday would be withdrawn under the deal.

Rebels said they accepted the plan while the army said it would give its response on Wednesday to the deal, which also allows the Syrian and Russian flags to be raised in the opposition bastion, but gives Moscow guarantees that Iranian-backed army units cannot act with impunity.

Army sources told Reuters news agency Iranian-backed troops that encircled the rebel enclave for the last two months and brought forward reinforcements on Monday would be withdrawn under the deal.

A Western intelligence source said several thousand families in towns caught in the crossfire had fled to safer areas near the Jordanian border where the Jordanian army was on alert for a possible new wave of refugees.

The Syrian army said at least four soldiers were killed in ambushes on troops in the towns of Sanameen and Nawa, and rebel shelling caused several casualties in residential areas.

Earlier this week, United Kingdom-based Amnesty International called on the Syrian government to end its siege on Deraa al-Balad and to allow “unfettered humanitarian access” to the area, where some 20,000 people live in dire conditions.

Residents have told the rights group “only women and children under 15 have been allowed out of the besieged area on foot after being subjected to security checks and told to leave their identity cards behind”.

Others have said shops are nearly “empty of all food” with reports of no electricity for lengthy periods.

Government forces, aided by Russian airpower and Iranian militias, retook Deraa province in 2018, and Moscow assured Israel and the United States at the time it would prevent Iranian-backed militias from encroaching on the border zone.

That deal forced thousands of Western-backed rebels to hand over heavy weapons but kept al-Assad’s forces from entering Deraa al-Balad, whose administration remained in opposition hands.

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