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Syria regime reaches deal with rebels in south

The Syrian regime on Friday reached a deal with rebels for the surrender of the remaining opposition-held cities and towns in the southern province of Daraa, the cradle of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad.

The deal comes more than two weeks into a devastating Russian-backed government offensive on rebel-held areas of southern Syria close to Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

"An agreement has been reached between the Syrian government and the terrorist groups" that includes "the handover of heavy and medium weapons in all cities and towns", the official SANA news agency said.

Fighters who reject the agreement will be evacuated with their families to the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, it added.

The deal also provides for government forces to take over "all observation posts along the Syrian-Jordanian border", it said, hours after the regime regained control of the vital Nassib border crossing with Jordan.

While the offensive has targeted parts of neighbouring Quneitra and Sweida provinces, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deal only concerned Daraa province.

The United Nations says the assault, which began on June 19, has pushed more than 320,000 people to flee, but SANA said the deal would see them return to their homes.

Rebel spokesman Hussein Abazeed told AFP that "the deal was the best we could achieve to save the lives of our fighters".

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