Daraa rebels return to talks, after heavy regime bombardment
Syrian rebel groups in Daraa are returning to talks with regime ally Russia, an opposition spokesman said on Thursday, after hundreds of missiles and barrel bombs were dropped on the southern province.
The intense Syrian and allied Russian air strikes on Daraa and Quneitra provinces came to a halt as rebels made their announcement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
"The talks will resume, but they are waiting to see whether the meeting will be in the Nasib border crossing or in Busra al-Sham, the same place as last time," Hussein Abazeed, spokesman for the rebels' southern operations, told AFP.
Moscow has been brokering talks with rebels in southern Syria that have already seen more than 30 towns agree to fall back under regime control.
The talks this week focused on remaining rebel territory in Daraa province's western countryside and the southern half of the provincial capital.
Rebels met with Russian negotiators on Wednesday, but the talks fell apart over Moscow's demands that fighters hand over their heavy-duty arms all at once.
Moscow also reportedly refused requests from some rebels for safe passage to opposition-held territory in other parts of Syria, as was done in Eastern Ghouta and Aleppo.
The talks had come with a pause in the heavy air strikes, barrel bombs and missile fire that had pummelled the south for two weeks.
But when the negotiations collapsed on Wednesday afternoon, the regime and allied Russia began an unprecedented bombing campaign as part of its carrot-and-stick tactics.
It killed six civilians on Thursday, including a woman and four children, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
On Thursday, the rebels' joint operations room in the south said it would be willing to resume talks.
"We agree on an immediate cessation of hostilities on both sides to have a new round of negotiations. We ask for real guarantees and UN sponsorship for the southern negotiations," the statement said.
The two-week-old regime offensive has displaced between 270,000 and 330,000 people, according to the UN, many south to the border with Jordan or west to near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.