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Rebel-held towns in southwestern Syria surrender

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By Mark Armstrong
A regime tank in Deraa province
A regime tank in Deraa province

A string of rebel-held towns and villages in southwestern Syria have surrendered to regime forces after insurgent lines collapsed under intense bombardment.

Syrian state television broadcast scenes of people in the town of Dael in Deraa province celebrating its return to government control.

Southwestern Syria is one of two remaining rebel strongholds, along with a region of the northwest that President Bashar al-Assad has sworn to recapture.

Rebels met with Russian negotiators on Saturday to seek peace terms for Deraa province, where most of the towns are located, but talks collapsed and air raids intensified against insurgent areas that still held out against regime forces.

The United Nations is warning of a humanitarian catastrophe as some 160,000 people have fled the lastest offensive that began on June 19th.

The Norwegian Refugee Council has asked Jordan to reopen its border but the country already hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and says it can't accept any more.

The army's offensive follows the capitulation of rebel enclaves near Homs and Damascus, including eastern Ghouta, which was recaptured after a scorched-earth assault that killed over a thousand civilians and laid waste to several towns.