Syrian army declares capital Damascus "completely secure"

Marsha Scott
May 23, 2018

The Syrian capital of Damascus and its surrounding suburbs are entirely free of rebel fighters for the first time in seven years, the government said on Monday (May 21).

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.

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

The capture of these southern neighbourhoods would bring the entire capital under government control for the first time since the war began in 2011.

The TV earlier quoted an unnamed Syrian military official as saying the two-day truce had been in place to evacuate women, children and the elderly on Sunday night from Hajar al-Aswad.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the month of fighting left scores of dead on both sides.

The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said earlier that Syrian troops would continue an operation against IS militants in the Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood in southern Damascus.

State TV said the offensive began at noon after a group of civilians was evacuated from the area overnight. In the last two months alone, the United Nations says 110,000 people have been evacuated to northwestern Syria and opposition-held areas north of Aleppo.

The Monday success is a major breakthrough for the Syrian army which had, alongside its allies, been battling for weeks to recapture the tiny IS enclave in al-Hajar al-Aswad and the neighboring Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp.

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He said the ceasefire had been negotiated by regime ally Russian Federation and pro-government Palestinian factions.

A media spokesman for Liwa al-Quds, a Palestinian militia that participated in the SAA's anti-IS offensive in south Damascus, told Syria Direct on Sunday that reports about a government-coordinated evacuation of IS were "not true".

It has used force to defend the territory from pro-Assad forces.

ISIS forces managed to infiltrate the Yarmouk refugee camp and surrounding area, south of Damascus.

BBC Arab affairs analyst Sebastian Usher says the price of victory in Damascus for President Assad, as nearly everywhere else in Syria, has been high - in death, destruction and displacement.

Russian Federation and Iran have been Mr. Assad's strongest backers and joined the war on his side.

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

The Observatory said evacuation of the IS group is over, after 32 buses took 1,600 people including fighters and their relatives, out of southern Damascus.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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