Syria takes full control of capital

Syria's President Bashar al Assad forces are deployed at al Qadam area near Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus

Syria's President Bashar al Assad forces are deployed at al Qadam area near Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus

The Syrian army has restored control over all areas surrounding the capital Damascus, it said Monday, for the first time since early in the seven-year war, after pushing Islamic State group out of a south Damascus pocket.

Syrian regime forces stand in front of a destroyed building at the entrance of the Hajar al Aswad district on the southern outskirts of Damascus on May 21, 2018, after the Syrian regime forces announced it was in complete control of the capital and its outskirts for the first time since 2012, after ousting Daesh from a last pocket of resistance.

Weeks of fierce combat subsided at the weekend when a ceasefire allowed for group withdrawals, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.

On Sunday, a war monitor said fighters had begun withdrawing from the area towards Islamic State territory in eastern Syria under a surrender deal, but state media said fighting continued.

Officials said the ceasefire ended at noon on Monday, according to the AP.

A lot of them were former members of Al Qaeda's Syrian ex-affiliate Al Nusra Front, but Daesh fighters there also included Palestinian refugees who joined when the hard-liners took over much of the camp in 2015.

A spokesman for the Action Group for Palestinians in Syria (AGPS), a London-based monitoring group with correspondents in south Damasus, confirmed reports of an evacuation of IS fighters in conversation with Syria Direct on Monday.

The recapture of Hajar al-Aswad follows a month-long offensive by the army to recapture some areas under IS control.


Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been instrumental in helping Assad's over-stretched forces recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country's centre and north, building a military presence that has alarmed Israel and its USA ally, which is now looking to constrain Iran's activities.

President Bashar Assad's forces launched an offensive against IS militants in southern Damascus a month ago.

Syria's state media denied a deal was reached to evacuate fighters.

Syrian government forces and allied militias had encircled and besieged south Damascus since 2013.

The Observatory said Monday that a new batch of fighters and their families left late Sunday, heading east toward the Syrian desert.

Assad's forces have been making steady gains since 2015, when Russian launched an air campaign on behalf of his forces.

Mr. Putin told Mr. Assad during a meeting on Thursday that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to pull out their troops from Syria.

Mr Assad last week met Vladimir Putin, the president of Russian Federation, in Sochi.

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