Thousands head home in south Syria after ceasefire deal

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DARAA: Thousands of displaced Syrians were heading home on Saturday after rebels and the government reached a ceasefire deal in the south following more than two weeks of deadly bombardment.

Under the agreement announced on Friday after talks between rebels and regime ally Moscow, opposition fighters will hand over territory in the southern province of Daraa near the Jordanian border.

Daraa is seen as the cradle of the uprising that sparked Syria’s seven-year war, and the government retaking full control of it would be a symbolic victory for President Bashar al-Assad.

A Russia-backed regime offensive in Daraa has displaced more than 320,000 people since June 19, the United Nations says, including tens of thousands who fled south to the sealed border with Jordan.

Calm reigned over the region on Saturday as the two sides finalised the ceasefire deal, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

“People have started to return to their homes since yesterday” from the Jordanian border, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

He said “over 28,000 displaced people” had returned to 13 villages and other locations.

More than 150 civilians have been killed in the regime bombing campaign on Daraa since June 19, the Observatory says, and trust in the government does not run high.

Osama al-Homsi, 26, said he was hesitant to return to his hometown of Jeeza in southeastern Daraa after the deal.

“Of course I support the agreement to stop the fighting and bloodshed,” said the young man, who sought shelter from the bombardment in a field to the south of Daraa city.

Categories: Warzone

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