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Syrian rebels quit Daraa, cradle of 2011 uprising Open in fullscreen

The New Arab & agencies

Syrian rebels quit Daraa, cradle of 2011 uprising

Syrian regime soldier sits in an armed vehicle in Eastern Ghouta [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 July, 2018

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The announcement marks a major military and symbolic victory since the Syrian regime responded violently to largely peaceful protesters in 2011.
Rebel fighters in Syria have agreed to surrender Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar al-Assad seven years ago, in what is a potent military and symbolic victory for the regime.

Fighters will have the option of accepting an offer of amnesty or leaving Daraa with their families to other rebel-held parts of the country.

On Thursday, Syrian state vehicles, accompanied by ally Russia, were seen entering Daraa to raise the national flag over the city. 

According to Reuters, cranes from the state-run Daraa city council raised the flag near the mosque where large protests first swept through the city in March 2011 and heralded the start of the war. 

Under various ceasefire deals, rebels hand over heavy weapons, local police take control of the area and state institutions resume working there.

Regime ally Moscow has brokered the deals as part of a carrot-and-stick approach, which has allowed Assad's forces to recapture significant territory across the country.  

The recent Daraa offensive has pushed more than 320,000 people to flee, according to the UN, many to the closed border with Jordan or west near the Israeli-occupied Golan.

World powers have criticised the operation for violating a ceasefire announced last year by Washington, Amman and Moscow, but that has not halted the blitz.

Regime forces set their sights on the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra after scoring a number of military wins in recent months, including recapturing Damascus and its surrounding areas in May for the first time since the war's outbreak. 

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the seven-year civil 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.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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