Syrian troops retake Jordan border crossing

Syrian forces reach Jordanian border crossing as rebels negotiate surrender

An Associated Press journalist on the Jordanian side of the border could see the Syrian side of the crossing, along with the former free zone and some blue tents housing displaced people.

"What is happening in southern Syria is a big achievement for the Syrian army and its allies and a resounding defeat for America, Israel and their allies", said an official of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia, Ali Daamoush, during a Friday prayers sermon in Beirut.

In northern Syria, meanwhile, the Kurdish Hawar news agency reported an explosion in the town of Manbij, where dozens of people were demonstrating against the Turkish military presence in the country's north.

Twenty-four hours into the onslaught, rebels said they were willing to return to negotiations.

The onslaught has reportedly forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee to areas near Syria's border with Jordan.

The Observatory and the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said troops now also control most areas along the Jordanian border, after taking the main border crossing there.

"The talks will resume, but they are waiting to see whether the meeting will be in the Nasib border crossing or in Busra al-Sham, the same place as last time", Hussein Abazeed, spokesman for the rebels' southern operations, said.

But even amongst rebels who have agreed to Friday's deal it is unclear precisely how the terms of the deal will unfold in the coming days.

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"Cars carrying Russian military police and representatives of the Syrian government's border administration entered the Naseeb crossing without a fight", observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. It added that more Syrians are refusing to go back home out of fears of detention or conscription into the army.

The Assad forces captured new areas near the border with Jordan forcing residents to flee.

The victory further cements a Russian-engineered turnaround for Assad, which has handed him back control over what the French once called "La Syrie utile"-the string of major cities running from Aleppo down past Damascus and the country's Mediterranean coastline".

As rebels made their announcement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor reported a halt to both Russian and Syrian government air strikes over the south.

The de-escalation zone in the southwest was agreed by Russia, Jordan and the United States in June 2017.

Assad's next target in the southwest appears to be Quneitra province at the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where fighting between militants and Syrian forces escalated on Friday.

USA -backed and Kurdish-led forces seized the town from the Islamic State group in 2016, but Turkey views the Kurdish fighters as terrorists due to their links to insurgents across the border and has demanded they withdraw.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Thursday warned that 320,000 people have been displaced by increased hostilities in southwest Syria while another 750,000 risk being caught in the crossfire.

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