rain
Thursday November 15th, 2018 3:52AM

Syrian government raises its flag over cradle of 2011 revolt

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BEIRUT (AP) — For the first time in more than seven years, the Syrian government raised its flag Thursday over Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad in 2011 and plunge the country into its calamitous civil war.

The display is laden with symbolism as the government moves to stamp out the last of the uprising against the 52-year-old Assad who has ruled with an iron fist over Syria for 18 years. His father Hafez Assad was president for three decades before him.

Officials accompanied by state media crews hoisted the two-star flag over the rubble of the city's main square, allowing it to wave in sight of the shell of the Omari Mosque where protesters first gathered in demonstrations demanding reforms then Assad's ouster in the spring of 2011.

The mosque has since been destroyed in the government's brutal crackdown against the city, which ranged from alleged torturing of dissidents to shelling the city with tanks and planes.

With control over Daraa, government forces can now focus on clearing the last pockets of the opposition and, separately, the Islamic State group from the frontier at the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in a 1967 war.

The corner of southwest Syria is an important corridor for trade between Syria and Jordan, and onward to the oil-rich Gulf states. But most of the important fighting against the revolt has already been concluded in shattering battles farther to the north for the main cities of Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs, and territories in between.

Some 400,000 people have been killed in seven years of war.

Protests in Daraa in 2011 against the government's mistreatment of teenage detainees ignited a national revolt against decades of authoritarian rule.

Ahmad Masalmeh, a media activist formerly based in Daraa, said fighters in the city had accepted an offer of amnesty from the government, and let back in the state institutions and symbols of Assad's rule.

Rebels refusing to accept the deal will be exiled with their families to other rebel-held parts of the country.

The agreement follows a template imposed by the government and its Russian and Iranian backers that has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians, including media activists, army defectors, and draft dodgers and their family members to give up their homes to lift the sieges against their cities.

Human rights monitors say the arrangements amount to a program of political and demographic engineering in Syria to secure Assad's rule.

Government forces launched an offensive to recapture southwest Syria and the areas neighboring Jordan and Israel on June 19. They surrounded Daraa's rebel-held quarters on Monday. Dozens have been killed in the campaign, including 162 civilians, according to Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — among them women and children.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters at a news conference that the world body had tried "to prevent a bloodbath" in the region.

Late last month, Guterres had called for an immediate end to military operations and a return to cease-fire arrangements agreed to by Russia, the United States and Jordan.

"I think that our action was useful in that regard," he said. "But again the objective must be and remains entirely for us a political solution."

Mohamad al-Hanous, Daraa's governor, said government forces were in control of 80 percent of the city, according to the government-linked Central Military Media outlet, while Syrian state media reported late Wednesday that rebels in Daraa had agreed to surrender their heavy and medium weapons.

Under the terms of the agreement, Russia will deploy military police to maintain order in Daraa and facilitate the transition back to government rule, said a media activist inside who asked for anonymity out of concern for his safety.

Russian mediators are warning fighters and civilians against leaving Daraa for Idlib, the northwest Syrian province where over a million displaced Syrians are living in dire conditions and exposed to government airstrikes and the possibility of a future offensive.

"Idlib is a crematory," the activist said Russian mediators warned him.

Humanitarian groups say more than 300,000 people have been displaced by the government's southern offensive, moving toward the Jordanian border and to Quneitra, a province that borders Israel.

Israel and Jordan's borders are closed to refugees, and the aid group Oxfam said Thursday it was unable to deliver enough aid across the Jordan border to meet the needs of the internally displaced residents.

The circumstances are especially perilous for journalists and media activists, who say they fear for their lives if they are captured by government troops.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday at least 70 journalists were trapped in southwest Syria and required protection.

Syria is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, according to CPJ. At least 120 journalists have been killed in the country in relation to their work since the conflict began in 2011, according to CPJ research. At the time of CPJ's most recent prison census, at least seven journalists were in Syrian state prisons while many others are missing.

Masalmeh, the media activist, said he was smuggled out of southwest Syria to Jordan four days ago, leaving his parents and extended family in Daraa.

He said he had not heard from them in two days.

___

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP World News - International incidents
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: NATO chief: Trump approach 'having an impact'
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says that despite President Donald Trump's fire-and-brimstone approach to this week's summit, the U.S. president has had an impact on the commitment by alliance members to boost their individual military spending
12:26PM ( 11 minutes ago )
FBI agent angrily rejects charges of bias at chaotic hearing
An FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias said at a bitterly contentious and occasionally chaotic hearing in Congress that his work has never been tainted by politics
12:24PM ( 14 minutes ago )
'Game of Thrones' earns a leading 22 Emmy Award nominations
"Game of Thrones" earns a leading 22 Emmy Award nominations, including for best drama series.
12:22PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Lawyer: Stormy Daniels' arrest was part of sting operation
Porn actress Stormy Daniels' lawyer says her arrest at an Ohio strip club was part of a "sting operation."
12:11PM ( 26 minutes ago )
The Latest: Yelling, chaos over FBI agent's anti-Trump texts
Yelling and chaos erupted at a congressional hearing Thursday as Republican lawmakers challenged FBI agent Peter Strzok over his derogatory text message saying "we'll stop" the election of Donald Trump
12:05PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Government probing 'new information' in Emmett Till slaying
The federal government has reopened its investigation into the slaying of Emmett Till, a black teenager whose brutal killing in Mississippi shocked the world more than 60 years ago
11:59AM ( 39 minutes ago )
AP National News
Millions from anonymous donors to influence Kavanaugh fight
Millions of dollars from anonymous donors are helping shape the fight over President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee as Republicans and Democrats prepare for a bruising battle for ideological control of the nation's highest court.
11:14AM ( 1 hour ago )
Royal etiquette for the Trumps' visit: Don't kiss the queen
President Donald Trump is coming to Britain fresh from a confrontational NATO summit that featured stinging criticism of America's closest allies, but he's likely to tone down that stance when he takes tea Friday with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II
11:12AM ( 1 hour ago )
FBI agent: My work has never been tainted by political bias
An FBI agent removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team because of derogatory text messages about President Donald Trump is testifying publicly for the first time
11:01AM ( 1 hour ago )
Top General short headlines
Greece expels Russian diplomats over alleged protest money
Greece moves to expel two Russian diplomats and to block two others from entering Thursday over allegations that clergy and other organizations allegedly received Russian money to protest a deal to end Greece's longstanding name dispute with Macedonia
11:36AM ( 1 hour ago )
NATO insists it's united at end of raucous, divisive summit
At the end of a bewildering, roller-coaster NATO summit, the military alliance's 29 nations somehow pledged continued unity and kept their long commitment to beef up defense spending amid a barrage of biting criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump
10:32AM ( 2 hours ago )
UK releases long-awaited and already derided Brexit plan
The British government has released proposals for what it calls a "principled pragmatic and ambitious" Brexit _ plans that have already triggered the resignation of two top ministers and face likely resistance from the European Union
9:58AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP World News
Chicago mayor meets Chinese VP amid trade dispute
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, on a mission to salvage business deals threatened by a tariff war, says Chinese officials expressed confidence during his visit to Beijing that they can survive the spiraling dispute with Washington
7:04AM ( 5 hours ago )
China vows retaliation for $200 billion US tariff threat
China's government has vowed to take 'firm and forceful measures' against US threats to expand tariff hikes to a new range of goods including fish sticks and French doors
9:26AM ( 1 day ago )
NATO allies offer trainers, seek to set disputes aside
Canada is offering to lead NATO's new military training mission in Iraq, as the world's biggest security alliance seeks to prove it remains relevant despite deep trans-Atlantic divisions over trade, Iran and climate change
7:21AM ( 1 day ago )
AP World News - International incidents
The Latest: NATO chief: Trump approach 'having an impact'
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says that despite President Donald Trump's fire-and-brimstone approach to this week's summit, the U.S. president has had an impact on the commitment by alliance members to boost their individual military spending
12:26PM ( 12 minutes ago )
FBI agent angrily rejects charges of bias at chaotic hearing
An FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias said at a bitterly contentious and occasionally chaotic hearing in Congress that his work has never been tainted by politics
12:24PM ( 14 minutes ago )
'Game of Thrones' earns a leading 22 Emmy Award nominations
"Game of Thrones" earns a leading 22 Emmy Award nominations, including for best drama series.
12:22PM ( 16 minutes ago )
The Latest: Emmy noms for reality competition show announced
The Latest: Emmy nominations for outstanding reality competition show include familiar shows, 'The Voice' 'The Amazing Race' and 'Project Runway'
12:18PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Pelosi says Jordan should have known about wrestlers' abuse
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says a Republican congressman from Ohio should have known about allegations that college wrestlers he coached were abused by their team doctor two decades ago
12:15PM ( 23 minutes ago )