TEHRAN (Press Shia) – A string of Syrian militant-held towns and villages accepted government rule on Saturday as insurgent lines collapsed in parts of the southwest following the Syrian army’s gains there.
The southwest was an early hotbed of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and defeat there would leave terrorists with just one remaining stronghold, the area around Idlib province bordering Turkey in the northwest, Reuters reported.
The militants met Russian negotiators on Saturday to seek peace terms for Daraa province, where most of their southwest territory is located, but said these failed.
Local groups in many towns seized by the army in recent days had negotiated their own surrender deals independently of the main rebel operations rooms after the army troops’ advances.
State television broadcast footage from inside the towns of Dael and al-Ghariya al-Gharbiya, where people were shown chanting pro-Assad slogans. Other reports said numerous other towns and villages had agreed to come back under Assad’s rule.
Fierce battles were still ongoing around Daraa city, near the Jordanian border, where the army had repeatedly failed to capture a disused airbase, rebels said. The northwestern chunk of Daraa province remains in opposition hands.
The army’s offensive so far has focused on Daraa province, which borders Jordan. The Syrian forces and their allies are advancing towards Quneitra province.
The recapture of Daraa is highly important because it borders the occupied Golan Heights which Israel has used to treat wounded militants for years.
The territory's return to the Syrian government control would cut the much-reported collaboration between Israel and militants and deal a blow to Tel Aviv's plans to annex the Golan Heights.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and has continued to occupy two-thirds of the strategically-important territory ever since, in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.
The Tel Aviv regime has built tens of illegal settlements in the area since its occupation and has used the region as a launch pad for conducting airstrikes against Syrian military positions.