Report: Syrian army resumes offensive in south Damascus

By REUTERS
May 21, 2018 12:14
1 minute read.
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BEIRUT - The Syrian army resumed its offensive against Islamic State militants in south Damascus on Monday after a short ceasefire to allow women, children and old people leave, state television said.

The Syrian army and its allies have been battling for weeks to recapture the tiny Islamic State enclave, the last area outside government control in or around the capital.

State television broadcast footage of the shattered area and said air strikes "were targeting the last terrorist remnants" in the area after reporting earlier that a temporary humanitarian ceasefire had been in place since Sunday night.

It showed soldiers giving victory signs, waving weapons and Syrian flags before a smashed cityscape. Buildings were punctured by shellfire, walls were peppered with bullet marks, metal satellite dishes were bent and scorched, and the dome of a mosque had a gaping hole near its base.

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.

The war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said early on Monday that buses had already started leaving south Damascus for the Islamic State areas in eastern Syria.

The ultra-hardline jihadist group now controls only the tiny pocket in south Damascus and two besieged desert areas in eastern Syria, while another insurgent group that has pledged loyalty to it holds a small enclave in the southwest.

Pro-Syrian government forces have staged an intensive operation to recover Islamic State's south Damascus pocket in al-Hajar al-Aswad and the adjacent Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp since driving rebels from eastern Ghouta in April.

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