Syrians 'displaced by fighting in the southwest'

Displaced Syrians wait in a makeshift camp to cross the Jordanian border

The southwest was an early hotbed of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad and defeat there stands to leave rebels with just one remaining stronghold-the area around Idlib province bordering Turkey in the northwest.

The Russian demands, handed to rebels in a meeting in a town in southern Syria on Saturday, had prompted a walkout by the rebels, who said the terms amounted to a humiliating surrender. Russian Federation has offered to halt its offensive if the rebels hand over the remaining territory.

The Syrian army started the operation against the rebels in Daraa over 11 days ago, with the aim of entirely capturing the rebel-held areas due to the strategic location of Daraa near Jordan.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein warned, meanwhile, that many civilians in Syria were at risk of being trapped between government forces, rebels and Islamic State which has a small foothold there-an outcome he said would be a "catastrophe".

Another rebel spokesman, Ibrahim al-Jabawi, said the talks did not reach any conclusion.

Safadi was speaking at a news conference following talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

A source close to the talks said rebels would be willing to hand over heavy weapons in multiple phases.

Almost two weeks of ferocious air strikes and barrel bombing have seen regime forces retake swathes of rebel-held territory in the southern province of Daraa.




Moscow had roundly rejected the terms and responded with a counter-proposal, the source said.

This comes as several towns have accepted to embark on a reconciliation process with the Syrian army in Daraa, while other towns have been retaken through military action.

The opposition negotiators have returned to the table with an expanded 12-strong delegation that will now also tackle the fate of rebel factions in the Quneitra province further west near the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, Jabawi said.

The explosion rocked an area where arms depots are located in the northern sector of Daraa's northern countryside near the town of Lajat, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that it's not yet clear whether the explosion was a result of a foreign attack or some technical error.

Moscow has used tough deadlines in the past with opposition negotiators but has extended them at times.

Through military operations and those deals, Syrian troops are now in control of more than 60 percent of the southern province of Daraa.

Most of those escaping the fighting have fled to the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

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