With Assad on march, Syria rebels say cease fire agreed

EPA-EFE  YOUSSEF BADAWI

The intensity of the bombardment allowed government forces to seize control of a security checkpoint on the Jordanian border for the first time in more than three years, it said.

Another statement from the joint operations room of the militants in southern Syria said they were willing to return to the talks, an apparent sign they fear huge losses among their ranks as a result of the government's anti-terror offensive in the area.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's goal is to recapture Syria's entire southwest, one of the last rebel strongholds in the country.

Israel said it had targeted a Syrian army post that shelled a frontier "buffer zone" in the Golan area.

A member of Syria's pro-government forces walks past damaged structures in the town of Mudyara, formerly held by opposition groups, in the centre of the eastern Ghouta region as regime troops carry on with their assault on the rebel-held enclave, just outside the capital Damascus.

The Observatory said an armed group that had controlled some border villages had handed over control to the advancing government forces without putting up resistance.

The U.N. refugee agency has urged Jordan to open its borders as Syrians flee the battles and heavy air strikes en masse.

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

Syrian government forces have swept into insurgent territory in the south over the past two weeks, but the offensive has so far focused on Daraa province near Jordan's border, not Quneitra further west near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

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Rebels say Russian Federation has insisted that opposition factions hand over their heavy weapons all at once, while rebels want to relinquish their arms in several phases.

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

But rebels still hold Deraa's western countryside, the southern half of the divided provincial capital, and the prized Nassib border crossing.

"After the town of Al-Mutaaiyah agreed to the regime taking over, government forces are now four kilometres (2.5 miles) east of the crossing", said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory.

Rebel territory in the south was included in a ceasefire brokered past year by Russian Federation, the United States, and Jordan, but that has done little to stem the violence.

The agreement to end violence in southern Syria and surrender the crossing point with Jordan comes after rebels rejected a deal with the Russians earlier this week.

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More than 30 towns in the south have already agreed to surrender, expanding the government's control of Daraa province to around 60 percent, double what it held before the start of the offensive.

The onslaught has sparked calls for restraint and an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council on July 5.

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