Syria’s Assad set to recover Golan frontier as rebels surrender



BEIRUT/AMMAN: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is set to recover control of the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights after rebel fighters in the area agreed to surrender terms, sources on both sides said on Thursday.

The rebels in al-Quneitra province at the border with the Israeli-controlled territory have agreed either to accept safe passage to the rebel-held province of Idlib in the northwest or to remain in the area on the state’s terms, according to details outlined by a Hezbollah-run news outlet and a rebel source.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah fights in Syria in support of Assad.

It would mark another major victory for Assad, who has recovered swathes of southwestern Syria over the last month in a Russian-backed offensive that has already forced many rebels to surrender.

The report by the Hezbollah-run military news outlet said the agreement stipulated “the return of the Syrian army, represented in the 90th and the 61st brigades, to the positions that it was in before 2011”.

A copy of the deal sent to Reuters by a rebel source included a provision that Russian military police would accompany the same two Syrian army brigades “to the ceasefire line and the demilitarized zone, according to the 1974 agreement”.

The Golan Heights demilitarized zone was established in 1974 after the 1973 Middle Eastern war.

The provisions did not elaborate on the implications of the deployment of military units in the zone.

There would be further negotiations on a deadline for handing over medium and heavy weapons, according to the agreement sent by the rebel source.

US President Donald Trump said at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki that both had agreed to work together to help ensure Israel’s security.

Putin, Assad’s most powerful ally, cited the need to restore the situation along the Golan borders to the state that prevailed before the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011.