Syria's Former Rebel Strongholds Endure as Assad Regime Reasserts Control

Syrian troops seized French-made APILAS anti-tank systems in Daraa province

State television reported on Thursday that the Syrian military had managed to enter the militant-held part of Dara'a and hoist the flag near the city's post office.

The victory over rebels in the cradle of the uprising, and the reclaiming of the entire city for the first time in seven years, is a powerful symbol heralding the military defeat of a rebellion that aimed to unseat the Assad dynasty but was waylaid by violent government repression, the rise of Islamist extremists, the unwavering support of the regime's allies Russian Federation and Iran and the dithering of western powers.

With control over Daraa, government forces can now focus on clearing the last pockets of the opposition and, separately, the Islamic State group from the frontier at the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in a 1967 war.

Protests in Daraa in 2011 against the government's mistreatment of teenage detainees ignited a national revolt against decades of authoritarian rule.

A rebel official told Reuters negotiations were proceeding smoothly, with the Russians so far abiding by the terms of the deal, under which rebels would hand over weapons, and fighters who do not wish to live under state rule would be evacuated.

A suicide auto bombing on Tuesday killed 14 newly reconciled fighters from pro-government and rebel ranks in an attack on a south Syrian village claimed by the militant Islamic State group.

Much of the southern province of Daraa had been quiet since Friday, when a ceasefire deal between rebels and the Russian-backed regime ended a almost three-week regime assault.

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It was the birthplace of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been monitoring the war, said rebels were still in the city, but on Thursday their departure appeared to be merely a matter of time.

Some 2,000 rebel fighters are holed up in the opposition-held part of Daraa city, along with their families.

"After violent clashes, Jaish Khaled bin Walid took control of Heet despite Russian and regime air strikes against them", Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The reconciliation deal for Daraa city is the latest in a string of such agreements that have seen the regime retake large parts of the country since 2015.

Previous such deals have seen thousands of rebels bused up to areas still under opposition control in the north of the country.

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