BREAKING NEWS

Syria seeks to crush insurgent pocket, denies evacuation deal

BEIRUT - Syrian troops fought on Sunday to crush the last pockets of resistance by Islamic State militants trapped in an enclave south of Damascus, state media said, denying a report that insurgents had begun leaving in a withdrawal agreement.
The recovery of the enclave south of Damascus would mark another milestone in President Bashar al-Assad's war effort, crushing the last besieged rebel enclave in western Syria.Swathes of territory at the borders with Iraq, Turkey and Jordan, however, remain outside state control.
Syrian government forces and their allies have been battling to recover the enclave south of Damascus since defeating rebels in eastern Ghouta, also near the capital, in April.
The area is centered around the al-Hajar al-Aswad district and the adjoining Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, the largest in Syria.
The month-long battles have been the toughest fought by the Syrian army and its allied forces this year against opposition forces in pockets around the capital, defense experts say.
Despite extensive use of air power that has left many parts of the area leveled to the ground, troops and allied militias have sustained heavy losses as they encounter tough resistance from diehard militants waging a battle to the end.
In a live broadcast, a reporter with Syrian state TV said the Syrian army operations in the Hajar al-Aswad area were nearing their end and insurgent lines were collapsing as columns of smoke rose from the area behind him.
Syrian state news agency SANA said troops were about to close in on militants holed up in a small area of high density buildings north of Hajar al Aswad.
"The fighting skills of the army are foiling all the efforts by the terrorists to prevent the army from completing the liberation of the area," SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier said buses had entered the enclave after midnight to take out fighters and their families. They had left towards the Syrian Badia, a sparsely populated expanse of territory east of the capital that extends to the border with Jordan and Iraq, it said.
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