Syria Declares Damascus Fully Under Government Control

Sergio Conner
May 23, 2018

Syria's military says the country's capital and surrounding areas are free from militants for the first time in almost seven years.

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

The army's announcement came hours after a tenuous evacuation deal saw hundreds of IS fighters and their relatives quit Yarmuk, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syria's official state news agency and government officials denied reaching a deal to allow the militants to evacuate Yarmouk and adjacent areas.

The following month, Assad's forces began the assault specifically targeting IS.

IS has been driven from virtually all the territory it once controlled in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, but is still present in remote areas along the border in Deir el-Zour province.

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

The Syrian army is clearing out the last remaining blocks of the recently liberated Yarmouk camp, located in the south of Damascus, a Sputnik correspondent reported. In his first major foreign policy speech since taking the post as the top US diplomat, he issued a list of demands that he said should be included in any new nuclear treaty with Iran, including that it "withdraw all forces" from Syria, halt support for Hezbollah and stop threatening Israel.

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Years of crippling siege and bombardment by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whose presidential compound is visible from the camp, had already sent tens of thousands of them into a second exile.

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.

Al-Ikhbariya TV said a new plan is underway to storm IS-held areas in Hajar al-Aswad, near Yarmouk.

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

Yarmouk began as a refugee camp for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from what is now Israel during the 1948 war.

But the secretive nature of the withdrawals meant it was not immediately clear how many IS fighters or civilians - if any - remained in Yarmouk, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. "They requested this out of fear the buses would be targeted", the resident said.

Yarmuk camp was opened in 1957 with tents set up for Palestinian families forced to leave their homes by the establishment of Israel.

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