Smoke from fighting in Quneitra
Smoke from fighting in QuneitraFlash 90

Syrian rebels have agreed with government backer Russia to the negotiated surrender of a sensitive southwestern zone bordering Israel in the Golan Heights, a monitor said Thursday.

Quneitra is a thin, crescent-shaped province that lies along the buffer zone with the Israeli Golan to the west.

Rebels have held most of the province and the buffer for years but would hand over their territory as part of the surrender deal, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The deal provides for a ceasefire, the handover of heavy and medium weapons, and the return of government institutions to the area," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian police forces would take over current opposition territory in the buffer zone, he told AFP.

Those that refuse the terms of the agreement would be granted safe passage to opposition territory in northern Syria, he added.

A member of the rebel delegation to the talks confirmed to AFP that a deal had been reached for government forces to enter the buffer zone but said it was unclear when it would be implemented.

State news agency SANA said it had preliminary information on a deal for the army to return to its pre-2011 positions in the area, but did not provide more details.

The deal, according to the Observatory, does not include Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist-led alliance that holds territory straddling the provinces of Quneitra and neighboring Daraa.