Syrian army starts shelling IS positions south of Damascus

Charlene Craig
April 22, 2018

Separately, the pro-government al-Watan newspaper reported today that ISIS militants had been given 48 hours to agree to withdraw from an enclave centred around the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugee south of Damascus.

Most residents have fled the camp, but thousands of civilians are still inside.

Assad has benefited from Russian air power since 2015 to regain large swathes of Syria.

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Western countries launched their first coordinated action against Assad on Saturday to punish him for a suspected gas attack they say killed scores of people during an advance that captured the town of Ghouta near the capital.

Damascus and Moscow have broadcast statements from hospital workers in Douma - which medical aid groups operating in rebel areas have dismissed as propaganda - saying that no chemical attack took place.

A commander in the regional military alliance that backs the Syrian government said the Syrian army had begun shelling the jihadist enclave on Tuesday in preparation for an assault. Fighters in another enclave nearby - Eastern Qalamoun - said they had also agreed to withdraw.

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The Syrian army started shelling the positions of the Islamic State (IS) south of the capital Damascus on Thursday evening, after the failure of a deal to evacuate the terror-designated militants to the Syrian desert in eastern Syria.

President Bashar al-Assad scored a major victory in April by retaking eastern Ghouta, the biggest rebel stronghold near Damascus. They are now turning their attention to *Daesh-held neighborhoods in southern parts of the capital, including the Yarmouk refugee camp. But instead of sending the militants to the northern rebel-held province of Idlib, it would dispatch them to a pocket of territory near Israel and Jordan controlled by an IS affiliate, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The pro-government commander said the army had prepared for military action in the Eastern Qalamoun, but that Russian Federation was working on securing the rebels' withdrawal without a battle.

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Insurgents in the last area outside the Syrian government's control near Damascus agreed to surrender on Friday, state media said, after a pounding bombardment overnight and through the morning.

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