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Syria: regime, rebels battle for Jordan-border ahead of talks Open in fullscreen

Robert Cusack

Syria: regime, rebels battle for Jordan-border ahead of talks

More than 50 Russian airstrikes reportedly hit the region in the last three days [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 16 February, 2017

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As regime and rebel representatives sit down for peace talks in Astana, the Syrian army and allies are engaged in brutal and deadly warfare, causing dozens of deaths in Daraa.
At least eleven civilians were killed in Daraa province on Wednesday in the third day of intensive shelling and airstrikes by Russian and Syrian regime forces.

Six local hospitals were disabled and are not currently accepting any new patients following shelling and intensive street fighting between the Syrian regime and Islamist rebel fighters.

"The regime are bombing the areas around the hospitals in order to force them to suspend their work," Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) told The New Arab.

Local media activists report that around 30 regime soldiers have been killed in the fighting and another 50 have been injured.

The fighting escalated after rebel forces captured a regime weapons cache in the Manshiyeh neighbourhood, seizing regime weaponry and supplies.

Rebel groups on Sunday had stormed the heavily-garrisoned district in a battle dubbed "Death rather than Humiliation".

The rebels said they wanted to obstruct any regime attempts to capture a strategic border crossing with Jordan.

Three Syrian journalists, Abdullah al-Olayan Hariri, Omar Ahmed Abu Nabut and Basil Daroubi were all killed by regime forces while reporting on the fighting in Deraa.

Rebel fighter spokespersons reported destroying two regime tanks and two machine-gun positions inside Daraa, but it has not been possible to verify these claims.

The regime responded by redeploying troops to Daraa town centre from the nearby town of Izra, with the support of more than 50 airstrikes by the Russian air force.

A local media activist, Sarah Hourani, told The New Arab that these airstrikes concentrated on mostly civilian areas and that one Russian airstrike had hit a field hospital.

Three Syrian journalists, Abdullah al-Olayan Hariri, Omar Ahmed Abu Nabut and Basil Daroubi were all killed by regime forces while reporting on the fighting in Deraa.

The Syrian regime have announced their intention to retake the southern border province, Daraa, in order to regain control over its southern border with Jordan.

For its part, Jordan continues to close its border crossings, refusing to allow any refugees or medical cases through.

The violence also comes ahead of the second round of peace talks between the regime and rebel fighters in Astana, Kazakhstan on Thursday.

Daraa has been referred to as the 'cradle of the Syrian revolution", as it was the first province to rise up against the Syrian regime in 2011.

The Syrian conflict subsequently began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms.

These protests, inspired by the Arab Spring's wave of uprisings, triggered an armed rebellion fueled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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