Amid reports of south Syria ceasefire, Nasrallah claims ‘big victory’ is near

Hezbollah leader says Assad and allies will triumph over ‘terrorist forces supported by US and Israel’; Jordanian official says truce reached in Daraa province

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks on June 29, 2018. (YouTube screenshot)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks on June 29, 2018. (YouTube screenshot)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Friday evening the Syrian regime and its allies were nearing a “big victory” over “terrorist forces supported by the US and Israel,” amid unconfirmed reports that a ceasefire had been reached in the country’s south between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

A Jordanian official told Reuters a ceasefire had been reached in Daraa province, though there was no official confirmation.

State media and a monitor said earlier that rebels controlling several towns in southern Syria were considering a deal for a regime takeover in exchange for an end to fierce bombing.

Since June 19, Russian-backed government forces have been battering opposition-held parts of Daraa province with air strikes and barrel bombs, simultaneously calling on rebels to surrender.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported that rebels in three towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside had already agreed to a regime takeover in the last two days. On Friday, it carried preliminary reports that rebels in four more towns had “agreed to hand over their weapons… and reconcile.”

Nasrallah — whose Hezbollah terror group, along with Russia and Iran, has supported Assad in the seven-year civil war — said rebel groups in the area were “collapsing” and he expected wide parts of southern Syria would be under government control “within days.”

Syrian government forces hold their weapons at the back of a pick-up truck during a government guided tour in the village of al-Sourah, province of Daraa, on June 29, 2018. (AFP/Youssef Karwashan)

“Many of these groups are reassessing, starting to ask for settlements and entering into reconciliation deals,” he added.

He said Hezbollah was creating a mechanism to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon return home, in coordination with Lebanese authorities and Damascus.

Lebanon hosts just under one million registered refugees from the conflict in neighboring Syria, although authorities say the real number is much higher.

Meanwhile, a Syrian military commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, told journalists that the army’s advance left opposition fighters with “no choice” but to surrender and move “towards settlement and reconciliation.”

The strategy is one the government and its Russian ally have used across Syria: bombing, isolating rebel towns with ground attacks, and ultimately securing their surrender.

They have already divided rebel territory in the south near the Israeli border — which forms a rough U-shape spanning Daraa and neighboring Quneitra province — into several chunks.

Syrians displaced by government forces’ bombardment in the southern Daraa province countryside drive near the town of Shayyah, south of the city of Daraa, towards the border with Israel on June 29, 2018 (AFP/Mohamad Abazeed)

Opposition activists reported violence, even during a 12-hour truce that was reportedly brokered by Russia and Jordan and went into effect at midnight Thursday, saying more than 100,000 people have fled their homes since the government offensive began ten days ago. The UN said earlier this week that some 50,000 people have been displaced, many of them heading toward the border with Jordan and Israel.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on all sides in the conflict to end the escalating violence in Daraa and avoid a repetition “of the bloodshed and suffering seen earlier this year” in eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus.

On Thursday, Israel said the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) said it delivered about 60 tons of humanitarian aid and medicine to thousands of displaced Syrians in the Golan Heights fleeing the heavy regime bombardment.

This IDF patrol on the Golan Heights is part of an operation on June 28, 2018 to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in tent encampments in southwestern Syria. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Israel has been sending aid across the border for several years and has provided medical treatment to thousands of Syrians that reached the frontier with the Golan Heights.

The IDF said it won’t allow Syrians to enter Israel.

During his televised address, Nasrallah touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning that the Trump administration’s long-gestating peace plan would seek “the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.”

He also denied reports that eight Hezbollah members were killed in Yemen this week by the Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Nasrallah has denied sending fighters or weapons to Yemen in the past.

The Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly accused Hezbollah and its backer Iran of providing help to Houthi rebels, including ballistic missiles from Tehran that have targeted Saudi Arabia.

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