Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Israel must prevent entry of refugees from Syria to Israel - minister

Children receiving oxygen following an alleged gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma near Damascus Syria Children receiving oxygen following an alleged gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma near Damascus Syria Credit AP
Steven Clarke | 01 July, 2018, 18:41

More than 160,000 people have been forced to flee in southwestern Syria since Damascus launched an offensive to recover an area near the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a war monitor said on Friday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said "Russia, Iran and the USA were responsible for the (regime's) violations", state news agency Anadolu reported.

The fighting has displaced as many as 120,000 people from Daraa and the countryside to the Jordanian and Israeli borders, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It was declared a de-escalation zone in July 2017, when a trilateral ceasefire agreement was reached, with the US, Russia and Jordan as guarantors.

Among those killed were 17 civilians who had been taking shelter in a basement, including five children, according to the Britain-based monitor.

Turkey on Friday condemned the Syrian regime attacks carried out against civilians in Daraa and the southwestern Syrian province of Quneitra. The U.N. said earlier this week that some 50,000 people have been displaced, many of them heading toward the border with Jordan, which said it would keep its frontier closed to the displaced.

The rest is held by government forces, who also control most of Sweida province to the east.

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"The goal for them is to split the western Daraa countryside from the city and the eastern Daraa countryside". State TV broadcast scenes of what they said were locals celebrating the army's arrival in the formerly rebel-held town of Ibta, where they said rebels were turning in their weapons.

A State Department official however said the United States could neither confirm nor deny the truce report, describing the situation in southern Syria as "grim", with Syrian government forces and their Russian ally continuing to bomb the area. Today he commands the single largest part of Syria, though much of the north and east is outside his control.

Another rebel official said some towns were trying to negotiate deals with the state on their own.

"Israel does not expect a direct confrontation with the Syrian army", Haaretz wrote, adding that Eizenkot's visit had been meant to discuss possible "indirect effects" of the Assad regime's assault on Daraa, which stands only 60 kilometers from Israel's northern border. According to the United Nations, it hosts 650,000 Syrians who have fled the seven-year civil war, but the government maintains the number is more than one million and has repeatedly insisted the country can not take any more.

Israel's military has delivered aid to Syrian refugees fleeing the latest fighting in the country's southwest but says it will not allow civilians to enter the Golan Heights to seek refuge.

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