Jaber crossing, Jordan – Hours after a ceasefire deal ended more than two weeks of fierce fighting in southern Syria, the first of the thousands of families who sought shelter along the border with Jordan have started heading back to the areas they fled from.
“Displaced Syrians along the Jordanian borders have begun returning to their homes,” Ouda Shudaifat, a colonel in the Jordanian military, told Al Jazeera on Saturday.
He did not give the exact figure of people moving back to Syria’s southwestern province of Deraa, while sources at the border said they were a few.
Sources inside Syria said families began their journey overnight following Friday’s truce agreement between rebels fighting the government-led offensive and negotiators from Russia, a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, 60,000 of the more than 320,000 people who escaped the intense battles since the launch of the push of June 19 are stationed along the border with Jordan. The rest are at the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
It remains unclear where in Deraa province the first families are heading to.
Still, Jordan, which has kept its borders shut, hopes the rest of the displaced Syrians will feel safe enough to return to their homes in the coming days.
Under Friday’s deal, rebels agreed to hand over their heavy arms. In exchange, the Syrian military agreed to withdraw from four villages in eastern Deraa: Kahil, al-Sahwa, al-Jiza and al-Misaifra.
Fighters opposed to the agreement will be given safe passage to rebel-held areas, in the northern province of Idlib and a small area under rebel control near the Golan Heights. The details of this movement are expected to be discussed in the coming weeks.
Under the Russian-brokered agreement, Syrian forces will not be allowed to remain in the area retaken by the government, sources told Al Jazeera.
With the displaced families fearing reprisal from forces loyal to the Assad government, key to their return is the deployment of Russian military police in the area – part of the assurances package agreed on Friday.
This deployment is one of the main concessions gained by Jordan, which is fearful that Shia militias fighting alongside government forces will gain control of the area on its northern border.
Despite the agreement, Syrian army reinforcements were spotted moving up and down the road towards the Jaber-Nasib border crossing, where the situation remained calm on Saturday.
Fayez al-Duwairi, a military analyst, said he expects to see larger numbers returning to their homes inside Syria only if the agreement is strictly followed.
“If people are given safe passage and rebels hand over their weapons, we will see more displaced Syrians return to their homes,” he told Al Jazeera.
“It all depends on whether the various aspects of the truce agreement are applied.”