BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
Syria's state-run news agency says hundreds of Syrian refugees have crossed into the country from neighboring Lebanon, the last batch to return home in recent weeks.
SANA says buses carrying the returnees arrived at Syrian border crossings on Monday. It's the fifth group of refugees to return home from Lebanon. The Lebanese English-language newspaper, Daily Star, said more than 800 were crossing into Syria.
The Syrian government has been calling on refugees to return home, saying the war has subsided. Last week, President Bashar Assad granted general amnesty to army deserters, a move designed to boost the number of returning refugees. U.N. officials say it is too early for organized mass return.
A vital border crossing linking Syria and Jordan has reopened for the first time in three years, promising to restore commercial trade and travel between the two countries.
Another crossing, for U.N. observers along the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights has also reopened on Monday. Syria State TV showed the Syrian flag raised at the crossing which has been closed for four years because of the fighting.
The Quneitra crossing will only be opened for the U.N. observers for now, who have been stationed there to monitor a cease-fire between the two countries since 1974. But the observers left the crossing as Syria's civil war made it unsafe.
At Naseeb crossing, dozens of private cars lined up to cross from Jordan. Security personnel and dogs searched the vehicles.
Jordan and Syria have agreed to reopen a vital border crossing between the two countries, three years after the commercial lifeline fell to rebel groups and traffic was halted.
Israel also said on Sunday that the Quneitra crossing with Syria will reopen on Monday to U.N. observers, four years after it was closed because of the fighting.
The reopening of the crossings is a major boost to the Syrian government, keen on sending messages to its citizens and the world that it is slowly emerging victorious from the bloody conflict and beginning to restore vital services and relations. In eastern Syria, state TV said its broadcast has returned to Deir el-Zour city, seven years after it was halted when armed groups seized control of the area.
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