Syrian government air strikes and artillery fire have pounded areas held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in the south of Damascus, according to state media and war monitors.
Government warplanes targeted “the dens of terrorists from al-Nusra Front and Daesh in Hajar al-Aswad”, a southern district of Damascus, state news agency SANA said on Thursday, referring to Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate and using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Activists confirmed that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had effectively started a military operation against ISIL in the south of Damascus.
The government attacks and shelling targeted the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, as well as the neighbouring districts of Hajar al-Aswad and Tadamun.
Since regaining full control of Eastern Ghouta to the northeast of Damascus from rebels last week, the government has turned its attention to ISIL-held districts in the capital’s south.
For days, it has targeted these areas with shelling and rocket fire.
Since 2015, ISIL has controlled large parts of Yarmouk as well as parts of Hajar al-Aswad and Tadamun.
Last month, ISIL overran the adjacent Qadam neighbourhood, taking advantage as Assad’s forces focused on the campaign to expel opposition fighters from Eastern Ghouta.
ISIL currently controls about five percent of Syria, including pockets in Deir Az Zor, and have a presence in Syria’s vast Badia desert.
On Wednesday, ISIL launched a surprise attack near Mayadeen, a town in eastern Syria they lost six months ago, killing at least 25 government soldiers, according to war monitors.
At least 13 ISIL fighters were also killed in the attack, they said.