Syrian army troops entered Deraa al Balaad, the birthplace of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, for the first time since it lost control over the area a decade ago, residents, the army and former rebels said.

Army units set up at least nine checkpoints across the city under a Russian-brokered deal between the army and rebels that was finally agreed this week. Previous ones had faltered over disagreements over the extent of army control in the area and disarming rebels.

Pro-Iran army units had for almost two-month bombarded the area in several failed attempts to take it, and laid siege to neighborhoods that had over 50,000 people, preventing food and medicine from getting through.

In 2018, Assad’s army, aided by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias, retook southern Syria, bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west

Moscow gave guarantees to Israel and the United States in 2018 that it would restrain Iranian-backed militias from expanding their influence in the sensitive border region.

Witnesses said dozens of Russian military police took positions in the war-ravaged zone as former rebels and civilians handed over light weapons in centers set up by the army as stipulated by the peace deal.

Local officials hope Russia will rein in Iranian-backed local militias whom they say act with impunity and now hold sway in the border area.

“I am devastated. We had become used to being free and we will now return back to living in humiliation,” said Jasem Mahameed, a local elder.

Source » iranintl