Syria Denies Deal With IS to Evacuate Fighters

The Syrian Army has issued a statement today declaring victory in the fight over metro Damascus, saying that effective Monday Damascus and all of its surroundings are "completely secure" and under military and government control.

Attacks by Syria's government, as well as rebel and jihadist infighting, have ravaged the district for years.

"Damascus and its surroundings and countryside and its villages are completely secure areas", a statement by the...

Yarmouk, once home to about 200,000 Palestinian refugees, was abandoned by most of its residents as the government laid siege to it and Islamic State militants moved in 2015.

Shortly before noon Monday when the truce was supposed to end in Hajar al-Aswad, government warplanes struck IS positions as Syrian troops began pounding and advancing slowly deeper into the neighbourhood.

An Al-Ikhbariya reporter in the area said the coming hours will be "decisive" for restoring government control over Hajar Al-Aswad, but did not mention Yarmouk.

Standing on Route 30, a main street in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk, a Lieutenant Mohsen Ismail, 22, sighed: "This was the last battle in Damascus".

The fighting resumed in the Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood and the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

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.

Syrian troops and their allies are expected to turn their attention to opposition-held parts of southern Syria, including Daraa province, in a push that could bring allied Iranian forces even closer to the increasingly tense frontier with Israel.

Last year, IS fighters and relatives were evacuated from an area on the Lebanese-Syrian border under a deal between IS and Hezbollah, the regime's powerful Lebanese ally.

Several buses on Sunday evacuated ISIS militants from their last pockets in southern Damascus to the Syrian Desert in the east under a deal that was reached following weeks of fierce battles.

Syria's civil war began in 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

Takfiri militants have lost much of the territory they once held in Syria amid sweeping gains by government forces on the ground over the past few months.

With a mix of military pressure and surrender deals brokered by Russian Federation, thousands of opposition fighters capitulated and were evacuated in March and April from Damascus suburbs known as eastern Ghouta after a crushing government offensive.

Russian Federation and Iran have been Assad's strongest backers and have 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".

  • Rogelio Becker