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Syria gearing up for anti-Daesh battle south of capital

5 April 2018 16:42

With the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta almost freed, Syrian armed forces are now gearing up for a military operation to cleanse the capital city’s southern areas of Daesh remnants, a monitor says.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Thursday that Syrian army troops were being deployed to the south of Damascus in preparation for the offensive targeting Daesh terrorists.

The Takfiri terror group lost all the territories under its control in Syria late last year, but its remnants still maintain a presence in the southern districts of Damascus, including Yarmouk, which hosts a Palestinian refugee camp.

The terrorists also control sections of the neighboring districts of Hajar al-Aswad and Tadamun since 2015, a year after they showed face in Syria.

The Observatory, which relies on militant sources to compile its reports, said government soldiers, backed by allied Palestinian forces, have been gathering south of Damascus since Sunday.

Syria’s al-Watan newspaper has also reported a potential military offensive in those areas without elaborating.

Plight of Yarmouk

Once home to over 112,000 Palestinians, Yarmouk and its refugee camp first fell to anti-Damascus militants in 2012, a year after the outbreak of a foreign-backed crisis in Syria.

The refugee camp in Yarmouk repeatedly changed hands among various militant groups until it was seized by Daesh in 2015.

In the absence of government control, Yarmouk has been rife with severe hunger, diseases and a high death rate.

Latest estimates also say the camp’s population has decreased to between 7,000 to 8,000 as many of its residents have fled militant infighting and violence.

The Yarmouk district’s liberation would give the Syrian government full control over the capital for the first time since 2012.

Over the past two weeks, militants of the former al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, have left Yarmuk under a deal with the government, but hundreds of Daesh terrorists remain holed up there, according to the Observatory.

Ghouta evacuations underway

The preparations for the offensive come as the Syrian army, backed by the Russian air forces, have almost entirely liberated Eastern Ghouta, which used to serve as a major militant stronghold and a launch pad for deadly raids on residents of Damascus.

Buses carrying Jaish al-Islam terrorists and their families from Douma, Eastern Ghouta, arrive at the Abu al-Zindeen checkpoint controlled by other militants near the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, on April 4, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Douma is the only part of Eastern Ghouta still held by foreign-backed militants.

State media earlier reported that the government has reached an evacuation agreement with Jaish al-Islam terrorists holed up in Douma.

Syria’s official SANA news agency reported Thursday that militants and their families continue leaving Douma under the deal for the northern militant-held town of Jarabulus.

Based on the deal, SANA added, the militants will hand over their heavy and medium arms to the state, release the hostages and  return the bodies of martyrs.

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