(From The Guardian)
Several southern Syrian towns have surrendered to the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, after more than a week of fierce attacks forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
The United Nations says fighting has driven 160,000 people from their homes, towards borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Both countries say they will not allow any Syrians to cross.
Rebel fighters are trying to negotiate with Assad’s backer, Russia, as the opposition-held enclave in southern Daraa province rapidly shrinks under airstrikes and ground attacks, but say conditions offered are “hard to accept”.
Daraa is seen as the cradle of the Syrian uprising against Assad, which led to the seven-year civil war, so recapturing it would be both a strategic and propaganda victory for the government.
Fighting, which began on 19 June, continued into Saturday, a second week of conflict that the UN’s Syria envoy has said could match the siege of Aleppo and last year’s assault on eastern Ghouta combined.