Pro-Assad forces raise Syrian flag in formerly rebel-held Golan Heights – National


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GOLAN HEIGHTS/AMMAN – Professional-Assad forces raised the Syrian flag within the largely ruined metropolis of Quneitra on Thursday, regained from surrendering rebels as the federal government tightens its maintain on the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights, strategic territory bordering Israel and Jordan.

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A Reuters photographer noticed uniformed males elevate the Syrian nationwide flag and the black, white, inexperienced and purple flag of President Bashar al-Assad’s Baath Occasion within the long-abandoned metropolis. No weapons had been instantly seen.

The photographer was reporting from a vantage level on the Israeli-occupied western part of the Golan Heights that overlooks Quneitra city.

Forces supporting Assad, backed by a serious Russian air marketing campaign, have been pushing into Quneitra province after an offensive final month that routed rebels in adjoining Deraa province who had been as soon as backed by Washington, Jordan and Gulf states.

Professional-Assad forces started pushing final week in direction of the border space near the demilitarized zone adjoining the Israeli-occupied space after rebels surrendered massive components of Quneitra province.

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Beneath the phrases of a 1974 U.N. armistice that demilitarized a lot of the Golan, Israel withdrew from the deserted capital of Quneitra province which it had razed to the bottom after capturing it within the 1967 Arab-Israeli struggle. The destroyed city had fallen into insurgent palms in 2014.

Professional-Assad forces have raised the flag on a number of different cities alongside the frontier, together with Rafid that overlooks a U.N. statement publish.

A Russian-brokered deal permits the return of Syrian military brigades that existed earlier than the battle started in 2011 to the place they had been stationed close to the demilitarized zone.

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To this point there have been no indicators of great deployment of Syrian military troops to former posts close to the frontier, in line with a regional intelligence supply.

Israel says it’s involved that Assad could defy the U.N. armistice, or let his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements deploy there.

There’s a sturdy presence in components of Quneitra of Iranian-backed militias, the intelligence supply mentioned, including that they’ve taken a low profile to keep away from antagonizing Russia which had given pledges to Israel to curb their affect,

The Israeli authorities has signaled it will not impede the Syrian military presence in Quneitra so long as it avoided the demilitarized zone. Nevertheless, Israel mentioned it’ll proceed to escalate assaults alongside its frontier and elsewhere in Syria the place it suspects Iranian-backed forces are stationed.

Mainstream rebels are finishing a handover of weapons and in some cases negotiating with Russian officers about enlisting in military models that function native forces, opposition supply say.

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A number of hundred primarily jihadist rebels from a former al Qaeda offshoot have rejected the offers and accepted protected passage to opposition held components of northern Syria.

Rebels say military and pro-government militias have been spreading checkpoints in former insurgent held-towns in Quneitra province which have accepted return of state rule

The military remains to be battling a neighborhood Islamic State affiliate across the Yarmouk Basin close by the place the military mentioned on Thursday its floor forces had made important progress after almost 10 days of relentless Russian-led aerial bombing.

— Reporting by Ammar Awad; Writing by Maayan Lubell and Suleiman al Khalidi; Enhancing by Stephen Farrell, Kevin Liffey and David Stamp

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