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Published: Wed, May 23, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Syrian government says Damascus and surrounds 'free from militants'

Syrian government says Damascus and surrounds 'free from militants'

"Damascus and its surroundings and Damascus countryside and its villages are completely secure areas", the statement said, adding that the army would continue to fight "terrorism" across Syria.

Once Yarmouk and adjacent areas are under its control, Syria's government will have fully secured Damascus and its outskirts from any military threat for the first time since 2012.

A military source said that a temporary humanitarian ceasefire has been implemented on Sunday night to evacuate children, women and elderly men from al-Hajar al-Aswad area.

Some ISIS fighters were also allowed to leave the Palestinian Yarmouk camp, according to the UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The gutted neighbourhood in southern Damascus was the Islamic State group's last urban redoubt until Monday, when the last batch of jihadists evacuated after weeks of fighting.

Syrian army troops and their allies advanced in al-Hajar al-Aswad city, and established control over a number of building blocks on Uroba Street towards al-Wassim Mosque, Syria's official news agency SANA reported.

Syrian state television broadcast scenes of jubilant celebration among government troops entering the sorry landscape.

The area is centered around the Al-Hajjar Al-Aswad district and the adjoining Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

Syrian army soldiers stand on the rubble of damage buildings in al Hajar al-Aswad Syria
Syria Denies Deal With IS to Evacuate Fighters

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.

Assad's forces have been making steady gains since 2015 when Russian joined the conflict on his side.

Negotiated withdrawals have been a common feature of the Syrian war in recent years as the government, aided by the Russian military and Iran-backed forces, has steadily clawed back territory.

On Monday, Syrian forces tightened their noose around the militants in the Hajar al-Aswad area and Yarmouk and retook the two districts from the grip of them, according to Tasnim dispatches.

Government and allied forces started an operation last month to flush out jihadists and other groups from a cluster of neighborhoods in southern Damascus.

"Buses carrying families of IS and civilians already arrived to Homs province [in] central Syria, while about 1,000 IS fighters will leave to the Syrian Desert, probably to eastern Deir el-Zour", Ismael said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Ghasemi told reporters that no one can force Tehran to do anything it doesn't want to do.

While Assad has vowed to win back "every inch" of Syria, the map of the conflict suggests a more complicated time ahead from now on.

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