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Syria's army captures last insurgent area near Damascus

22 May 2018

The Syrian army raised the country's flag over the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus on Tuesday as state media promoted what it said was the "liberation" of the last quarters of the capital from rebels and Islamic State militants.

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.

"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.

In a televised statement Syria's army high command said Al Hajar Al Aswad and Yarmouk had been cleared of militants.

The channel's area correspondent said the coming hours would be "decisive" for restoring government control in Hajar al-Aswad, but didn't mention Yarmouk.

The battle in Hajar al-Aswad was complicated as that area is jam-packed with buildings that are so close to each other, making a ground offensive extremely hard.

Some ISIS fighters were allowed to leave the Yarmouk camp and neighbouring area Al Tadamon.

Shortly before noon Monday when the truce was supposed to end in Hajar al-Aswad, government warplanes struck IS positions as Syrian troops began pounding and advancing slowly deeper into the neighborhood.

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The capture of these southern neighborhoods would bring the entire Syrian capital under government control for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

They had left towards the Syrian Badia, a sparsely populated expanse of territory east of the capital that extends to the border with Jordan and Iraq, it said.

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

Takfiri militants have lost much of the territory they once held in Syria amid sweeping gains by government forces on the ground over the past few months.

Iran and Russian Federation have joined forces in Syria, providing crucial military support to Assad's forces and giving them the upper hand in the civil war.

The government has denied reaching a deal with IS, but did say a brief ceasefire had allowed one convoy of women and children to leave the pocket in southern Damascus overnight.

The head of the organization The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdul-Rahman said that from the camp and the adjoining district of Tadamun left six buses with jihadists and members of their families. Mr Putin said he expected foreign forces to withdraw from Syria soon as the political process moves forward.

Syria's army captures last insurgent area near Damascus