Syrian army gains ground in rebel south: monitor

EPA-EFE  YOUSSEF BADAWI

"We must clarify our position: we understand that you must make a decision (to fight) based on your interests, the interests of your people and your faction as you see them", the message read.

"We in the United States government understand the hard conditions you are facing and still advise the Russians and the Syrian regime not to undertake a military measure that violates the zone", the message also said.

After securing Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is keen on recapturing the country's south, but key parts of it fall under a "de-escalation zone" agreed previous year by the US, Jordan, and Russian Federation.

Opposition sources said Russian jets struck a rebel-held town in southwest Syria early on June 24, providing air cover to an expanding campaign by Syrian Army units to recapture the strategic area on the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Many of those rebels have previously received backing from Jordan and the United States, but Washington has warned them that they should not expect American help should the regime start a new assault.

You should not base your decision on the assumption or expectation of military intervention by us.

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The US has supported the FSA with weapons and salaries during the seven-year war under a programme run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Russian warplanes had not previously been deployed in the current offensive, with Syrian government troops relying on artillery and rockets in the assault.

Syrian state media said rebels had fired indiscriminately on residential areas of the city, causing several casualties, adding that the army had hit what it called "terrorist" hideouts.

The southwest is of strategic concern to United States ally Israel, which has this year stepped up attacks on Iran-backed militia allied to Assad.

Since retaking rebel strongholds around the capital Damascus in recent months, Syrian regime forces have turned to the country's south, where opposition forces still hold a majority of the provinces of Daraa and Sweida. South-west Syria is of strategic concern to U.S. allies Israel and Jordan.

"Jordan has not and will not abandon its humanitarian role and its commitment to global charters, but it has exceeded its ability to absorb (more refugees)", Jumana Ghanimat, minister of state for media affairs, told AFP.

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