Middle East

Displaced Syrians turned away from Israeli border as they flee fighting

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Syrian civilians are seeking passage to Golan Heights to escape bombing by pro-Assad forces

Large numbers of Syrian civilians have approached the Israeli border fence, seeking sanctuary from a Russian-backed al-Assad regime offensive.

They told local reporters they were taking the unprecedented step of approaching Israel's Golan Heights border fence to seek refuge after fighting and bombing attacks around the nearby village of Ain al-Tineh.

It's understood several people have been killed by bombing in the area, prompting the crowd of more than 100 people to approach the border.

Israeli forces stopped them at the border, with the ABC reporting an Israeli soldier used a megaphone to tell the crowd: "Go back before something bad happens". 

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have already been displaced by recent fighting.

 Syrian Refugees march toward the Israeli Security fence demanding help.
Syrian Refugees march toward the Israeli Security fence demanding help.
AP

 

Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad continues to wage a campaign to reclaim control of southern Syria, with military support from Russia, triggering the migration.

Israel has said it will not allow any refugees to cross its border, trapping the fleeing people between the Israeli border and advancing regime forces.

Deal reached

Syrian rebels and Iranian-backed negotiators have reached a deal to evacuate thousands of people from two rebel-besieged Shi'ite villages in northwestern Syria, in return for the release of hundreds of detainees in state prisons.

Opposition sources said negotiators from a rebel coalition spearheaded by Syria's former al Qaeda offshoot Nusra Front, and Iran's Revolutionary Guards had agreed all residents would be evacuated from the mostly Shi'ite villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province.

A commander in the regional alliance that backs President Bashar al-Assad said 100 buses were heading to the two towns to evacuate around 6,000 alongside 300 Alawite civilians held by rebels.

"We now are working on the logistical arrangements," said an Islamist rebel source familiar with the secret negotiations that Turkey was also involved in.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
AAP

In April 2017, thousands of people in the two Shi'ite towns were evacuated to government-held areas in a swap that in exchange freed hundreds of Sunnis living in former rebel-held Madaya and Zabadani who were then besieged by Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah group.

But the evacuation of the remaining 7,000 people in al-Foua and Kefraya in exchange for the release of 1,500 detainees prisoners never went through.

The resumption of talks now to complete the deal was to ward off a possible military campaign by the Syrian army and Iranian backed militias to end the siege of the two Shi'ite towns.

An opposition source familiar with the talks said more than 1,500 civilian and rebel prisoners would be released.

Iran, which backs Assad against the mainly Sunni insurgents and has expanded its military role in Syria, has long taken an interest in the fate of its co-religionists in the two towns.

It has arranged dozens of airlifts of food and equipment to circumvent the rebel siege of the two towns.

Past deals have mostly affected Sunni Muslims living in former rebel-held areas surrounded by government forces and their allies after years of sieges that have in some cases led to starvation.

Damascus calls them reconciliation deals. Rebels said it amounts to forced displacement of Assad's opponents from main urban centres in western Syria and engenders demographic change because most of Syria's population, are Sunni.

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