Assad forces set to take city where war began

270 journalists trapped in Syria’s Daraa

Government forces backed by Russian Federation have recovered huge areas of Daraa province at the border with Jordan in a major offensive that got underway last month and has forced many rebels to give up territory in negotiated surrender deals. The city was scene of the first Assad protests in March 2011 that escalated into a war that has killed an estimated half a million people.

The campaign in the southwest is now expected to target rebel-held enclaves at the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The attack resulted in deaths among the Syrian army, it said, without providing figures.

With critical help from Russian Federation and Iran, Assad has now recovered most of Syria.

As Assad pursues military victory, there appears to be little hope of a negotiated peace which Western governments say is needed to bring stability and encourage refugees to return.

Syrian government forces bombed villages and towns in the northwestern province of Idlib on Tuesday after a surprise attack by insurgents that reportedly killed two dozen soldiers, activists said.

"It is a strategic and a symbolic win for the Syrian government".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been monitoring the war, said rebels were still in the city, but on Thursday their departure appeared to be merely a matter of time.

"Everyone is committed to the agreements", said Abu Jihad, adding rebels had already begun since late Wednesday handing over their heavy weapons.

The Russian base has been a frequent target of attacks by opposition forces in recent months, the largest of which occurred in January when the Russian military claimed to have shot down seven of 13 drones that attempted to bomb the airbase, and jammed the others forcing them to land.

A militant official said the Takfiri elements, who are still holed up in Dara'a, are in talks with Russian officers to secure a safe passage to the terrorist-controlled areas in northern Syria.

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