Russian Federation says it downed drone near base in Syria

Lester Mason
May 22, 2018

Syrian government forces announced they seized full control of the southern districts of Damascus on Monday, one month after launching an air and ground offensive against Islamic State fighters there.

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.

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

Although most militants left the area, separate extremist groups remained in the camp, the news outlet said, adding that government forces had launched a mop-up operation.

Its fighters burned their headquarters in Yarmouk before boarding buses with their relatives to leave the area, said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) chief Rami Abdel Rahman. The offensive has brought more than 70 percent of the camp under government control.

It follows months of battles between ISIS fighters and Syrian government and allied troops in southern Damascus, leaving scores dead and leaving the already battered Yarmouk refugee camp an even greater scene of destruction.

The desert area to which Yarmouk's Isil fighters have been sent is home to United States forces, Kurdish groups and Jordanian proxy groups.

The Observatory said that the fighters were heading east toward the desert and that they had been setting their offices and vehicles on fire so that government forces could not use them.

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

Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been instrumental in helping Assad's over-stretched forces recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country's centre and north, building a military presence that has alarmed Israel and its US ally, which is now looking to constrain Iran's activities.

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

Al-Watan, a pro-government newspaper, said the militants are believed to have surrendered.

Earlier, the Syrian government forces regained control over the eastern neighborhoods of the district of Yarmouk located south of Damascus.

Yarmouk Camp was home to the largest Palestinian diaspora in Syria.

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

It was the last area outside government control in or around Damascus.

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

Mr. Putin told Mr. Assad during a meeting on Thursday that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to pull out their troops from Syria.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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