Published: Mon, April 23, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Syrian troops begin new offensive against IS in southern Damascus

Syrian troops begin new offensive against IS in southern Damascus

The Syrian government is working to secure the surroundings of Damascus through evacuation deals with rebels, and the ongoing military offensive on IS militants south of the capital.

The Syrian army bombarded a jihadist enclave in south Damascus on Monday, state television and a war monitor said, as Bashar al-Assad seeks to regain all ground near the capital. They agreed to give up their last pocket there on Friday but have yet to begin surrendering to government forces and relocating to ISIS-held areas elsewhere in the country.

Hundreds of IS militants hold parts of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk and nearby Hajar al-Aswad in southern Damascus.

"There must be safe passage for the sick and the wounded and the dying civilians", he said.

President Bashar Al Assad, backed by Iran and Russian Federation, is seeking to crush the last few besieged rebel enclaves, building on the defeat of insurgents in the eastern Ghouta region, which was the rebels' last major stronghold near the capital.

Thousands of homes had been destroyed in Yarmouk in the past four days of fighting, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said. Some are being taken by bus to the northern district of Afrin, which was held by Kurdish forces before Turkey recaptured the area in recent months, AFP said.

Meanwhile, rebels have begun evacuating three towns in the eastern Qalamoun region in the Damascus countryside.

Chemical weapons inspectors collected samples from Douma on Saturday, two weeks after the suspected gas attack there prompted retaliatory strikes by Western powers on the Syrian government's chemical facilities.

It said that its inspectors will collect samples that will be analyzed at the agency's laboratories, adding it would "consider future steps including another possible visit to Douma".

The U.S., France and the United Kingdom have held the Syrian government responsible and launched more than 100 missiles on three suspected chemical weapons facilities in Syria in the early hours of April 14 in response to the suspected poison gas attack on Douma.

The Syrian government and its ally Russian Federation denied responsibility for the suspected chemical attack.

Units of the fourth division of the Army and the People's Defense Force advanced and controlled the mosque of Imam Ali, between the neighborhoods of Tadamoun and Sidi Kadad, and blocks of buildings, after clashes with the terrorists of Daesh.

The attack was coordinated with the Syrian government.

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