Syrian rebels in a pocket of land near where the Syrian, Lebanese and Israeli borders meet are negotiating a deal with the government to leave for other insurgent-held areas, rebel officials said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
The Syrian army, backed by Russian air power, Shiite militias supported by Iran and local fighters from the Druze sect, have besieged the rebel enclave around Beit Jin for weeks. Earlier this week it was reported that the Syrian forces have pushed deeper into the rebel-held enclave, leaving the rebels trapped inside the town itself.
“There is now negotiation on the departure of fighters and those who wish to leave with them,” Abu Kanaan, an official in a local rebel group, told Reuters on Wednesday.
“The militias are trying to convince them to evacuate to Idlib... There has been no agreement reached yet,” said Ibrahim al-Jebawi, an official with a Free Syrian Army faction familiar with the situation.
The area around Beit Jin is sensitive because of its location next to the Golan Heights.
A recent ceasefire agreement between the U.S., Russia, and Jordan left Iranian-backed militias just three miles from the Israeli border.
Worried by Iran’s expanding influence in Syria after the defeat of Islamic State, Israel has allegedly carried out strikes against suspected Iranian targets inside Syria in recent weeks.
Iran has never hid the fact that it is a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and has been providing him with both financial aid and military advisors against a range of opposing forces.
Near the start of the Syrian civil war, it was reported that then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.
A senior Iranian commander said several months ago that Iran will provide military advisors to Syria for as long as necessary and stressed that “the advisory help isn't only in the field of planning but also on techniques and tactics.”
A report last month said Iran is establishing a permanent military base outside El-Kiswah, located 14 kilometers (8 miles) south of Damascus. An airstrike earlier this month attributed to Israel reportedly hit an Iranian compound in that area.