Syrian army declares capital Damascus “completely secure”

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BEIRUT:, MAY 21,
The Syrian army said Damascus and its surroundings were fully secure after the army cleared the last insurgent-held area around the capital of Islamic State fighters on Monday.
“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.
Earlier, Syrian government forces on Monday resumed their offensive against the Islamic State group in the south of Damascus, after evacuating a group of civilians from the area, Syrian state TV reported.
The TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying a truce had been in place to evacuate women, children and elderly on Sunday night from Damascus’ southern neighborhood of Hajar al-Aswad.
Attack after the end of truce
Shortly before noon Monday, when the truce was supposed to end, government warplanes struck IS held areas as Syrian troops began pounding and advancing slowly in the remaining IS-held neighborhoods in Damascus, according to state TV. “The Daesh terrorist organization is living its last hours” in the Damascus area, the TV’s reporter said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to IS.
Damascus residents said warplanes were flying over the city again. The fighting resumed in the Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood and the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said some IS fighters were permitted to leave Yarmouk and the adjacent al-Tadamon neighborhood. Syria’s state media denied a deal was reached to evacuate fighters.
The Observatory said on Monday that a new batch of fighters and their families left late Sunday, heading east toward the Syrian desert. It added that IS fighters have been setting their offices and vehicles on fire so that government forces would not be able to seize equipment or documents belonging to the group.

President Bashar Assad’s forces launched an offensive against IS militants in southern Damascus a month ago. The offensive has brought more than 70 % of the area under government control.

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