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Syrian rebels begin evacuating Golan frontier


REUTERS
BEIRUT/GOLAN HEIGHTS
SYRIAN rebels began evacuating the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Friday, leaving for the rebel-held north in a surrender deal that restores President Bashar al-Assad's control of the frontier.
With a Russian-backed government offensive closing in, rebels in Quneitra province have agreed to either accept the return of state rule, or leave to Idlib province in the north in another major victory for Assad.
Buses transporting both rebels and civilians fearing government persecution began leaving the Quneitra area in the mid-afternoon, a witness said.
A military news service run by Lebanon's Hezbollah, which is fighting in support of Damascus, said buses"carrying militants" had left the city of al-Quneitra headed north.
A Reuters witness at a vantage point on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights saw a steady movement of people out of the village of al-Qahtaniya, near Quneitra. A stream of motorcycles, heavily laden cars and flatbed trucks packed with men, women and children departed the village.
The offensive has restored Syrian government control over a swathe of the southwest. It has been one of the swiftest campaigns of the seven-year-long war. The United States, which once armed the southern rebels, told them not to expect its intervention as the attack began. Many surrendered quickly.

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