Syria war: Army takes full control of Damascus after ousting IS


The Syrian army has declared Damascus and its surrounds fully secure after regaining control of a former Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) stronghold in the southern part of the city.

The high command said army would continue to fight "terrorism" across Syria.

A state television presenter said the recovery of al-Hajar al-Aswad meant the area south of Damascus had been completely cleared of insurgents.

Yarmouk is one of the closest spots to central Damascus to have been controlled by Daesh and the deal brokered in recent days to secure the militants' exit handed the government full control of the capital and its outskirts for the first time since 2012.

"A ceasefire came into effect, ostensibly for five hours", the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In a separate deal inked on April 29, the Syrian regime and Tahrir al-Sham, an armed opposition group, agreed to evacuate parts of the Yarmouk camp controlled by the latter.

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But in a first official comment on evacuations, a military source said Monday that a brief ceasefire had allowed some civilians to be transferred out overnight.

The latest evacuations, according to the Observatory, leave the government in control of Tadamun, Qadam and Hajar al-Aswad.

The TV quotes an unnamed military official as saying that a truce was in place to evacuate women, children and elderly people on Sunday night from Damascus' southern neighborhood of Hajar al-Aswad.

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

The significance of this achievement emanates from the defeat of the most "vicious terrorist group" and proves that the Syrian army has become more powerful and determined to eliminate the terrorist groups in other Syrian areas.

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

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Mr Al Assad has already ousted tens of thousands of rebels and civilians from areas around Damascus this year through military force and negotiated withdrawals, including the rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta.

The report follows a string of violent blasts at a Hama air base on Friday that the Observatory said killed at least 11 pro-Syrian government fighters.

The US-led coalition told AFP on Monday it was aware of the reported evacuations from Yarmuk and was "monitoring the situation".

Vladimir Putin's envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said on Friday that the Russian president's statement about the need for foreign troop pullout from Syria referred to Iran, Assad's key regional ally.

It said the government would subsequently resume its operations.

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

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