Syria rebels 'agree deal' to surrender Quneitra
Syrian rebels have agreed with regime ally Russia to the negotiated surrender of a sensitive southwestern zone bordering the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, a monitor said on Thursday.
Quneitra is a thin, crescent-shaped province that lies along the buffer zone with the Israel-occupied Golan to the west.
Rebels have held most of the province and the buffer for years but would hand over their territory as part of the surrender deal, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"The deal provides for a ceasefire, the handover of heavy and medium weapons, and the return of government institutions to the area," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
Syrian police forces would take over current opposition territory in the buffer zone, he told AFP.
Those that refuse the terms of the agreement would be granted safe passage to opposition territory in northern Syria, he added.
A member of the rebel delegation to the talks confirmed to AFP that a deal had been reached for regime forces to enter the buffer zone but said it was unclear when it would be implemented.
State news agency SANA said it had preliminary information on a deal for the army to return to its pre-2011 positions, before conflict erupted in the area, but did not provide more details.
SANA said rebels and their families in Quneitra can leave for Idlib or to accept a return of state rule.
The deal, according to the Observatory, does not include Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist-led alliance that holds territory straddling the provinces of Quneitra and neighbouring Daraa.
Meanwhile, regime fighters and their families were bused out of Idlib villages on Wednesday, following a deal brokered by Turkey and Russia which will see Idlib province fully under rebel control.
The evacuation, ending the three-year siege on the area, was in exchange for the release of hundreds of prisoners from the regime's notorious prisons.