After more than two weeks of airstrikes, thousands of displaced Syrians from the southern province of Daraa returned to their homes Saturday following a cease-fire between the rebels and President Bashar Assad's regime.
According to the UN, at least 325,000 Syrian citizens have been forced to abandon their homes in the wake of the Syrian government campaign, which began June 19, many of whom have settled along the Israel-Jordan border.
Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that many refugees are now making their way back, though it appears the cease-fire agreement doesn't provide enough security for refugees in the area.
Samir (pseudonym), a resident of Daraa who escaped the area, told Ynet that government officials had made it clear to him that he can be arrested even though he didn't participate in the fighting.
"I wish the border will move so that we will be a part of Israel's territory, and Assad will not come to us," he said.
According to Samir, the rebels' surrender symbolizes Assad's victory: "Today they have finished Daraa, and with it—the revolution."
When asked where he was heading, Samir replied that he was going to Quneitra, but that "no one knows what happened to it."
According to the cease-fire agreement signed Friday between Russia and the rebels, control over many areas in the south of Syria will be returned to the Assad regime, including all border crossings along the border with Jordan. The agreement also states that all opposition groups will hand over their weapons, and all families, excluding rebel fighters, can return to their homes. After the rebels leave, the agreement stipulates, institutions in the region will resume operations.
The Al-Hayat newspaper reported that many rebels and refugees expressed their dissatisfaction with the agreement, saying they could have attained better conditions than those mediated by the Russians. The newspaper adds that another round of talks is expected to be held soon, in order to settle the situation in areas that have not been discussed with the Russians.
'If the world wants stability in Syria—Assad needs to go'
Said, who left Syria three years ago, lamented the fact that the civil uprising against Assad's regime is slowly dying, but noted that circumstances in the country will remain the same as long as Assad is in power.
"If the world wants to restore security and stability to Syria, Assad and his men should go," Said asserted.
"In the 2014 elections, we could not have voted for any other candidate. Aside from Assad, no one knew who was running against him, because his opposition is outside of Syria," he explained.
Said added that when he entered the local polling station on the day of the elections, a security guard accompanied him. "The regime takes families away from countries that assisted Assad, like Iran, and disperses them in Syria as if they were ordinary citizens… We must get rid of all armed militias—especially the Iranians and Hezbollah—bring all criminals to justice, and hand over the reins to the people themselves."
Meanwhile, Avichay Adraee, the IDF spokesman in Arabic, published a picture drawn by a Syrian girl who was hospitalized in an Israeli hospital after being evacuated from the fighting areas. "Thank you Israel for your love and support," it said.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, more than 350,000 people have been killed and millions more have abandoned their homes and fled the country.