Syria army pushes ISIL out of south Damascus district: State TV

Army and its allies have battled for weeks to recapture tiny ISIL-held enclave in south of Damascus.

    ISIL controlled the tiny pocket of Hajar al-Aswad in south Damascus and two besieged desert areas in eastern Syria [File: Reuters]
    ISIL controlled the tiny pocket of Hajar al-Aswad in south Damascus and two besieged desert areas in eastern Syria [File: Reuters]

    Syria's army has pushed the last ISIL fighters out of the al-Hajar al-Aswad district south of Damascus, Syrian state TV said on Monday.

    The Syrian army and its allies have been battling Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters for weeks to recapture a tiny enclave in al-Hajar al-Aswad and the adjacent Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, the last area outside government control in or around the capital.

    State TV broadcast footage of the shattered area and said air strikes "were targeting the last terrorist remnants" in the area after reporting earlier that a temporary humanitarian ceasefire had been in place since Sunday night.

    On Sunday, activists said fighters had begun withdrawing from the area towards ISIL-controlled territory in eastern Syria under a ceasefire deal, but state media said fighting continued.

    The armed group had controlled the tiny pocket in south Damascus and two besieged desert areas in eastern Syria, while another armed group that has pledged loyalty to it holds a small enclave in the southwest.

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    Yarmouk was the largest Palestinian camp in Syria and was put under crippling government siege in 2012 - making it one of the longest besiegements of Syria's war.

    During the siege, its 160,000-strong population dwindled to just several hundred people.

    Last year, ISIL fighters and relatives were evacuated from an area on the Lebanese-Syrian border under a deal between IS on one side, and Syrian government and its powerful Lebanese ally Hezbollah on the other.

    The Damascus government was fiercely criticised over the agreement, which also enraged the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against ISIL in Syria since 2014.   

    The coalition sent airplanes to shadow last year's convoy, conducting bombing raids to block it from reaching ISIL-held territory.

    Before launching its anti-ISIL push in Yarmouk, Syria's government managed to clear out other rebels from the area with military drives and evacuation deals. 

    Since the start of Syria's war, more than 465,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting, over a million injured, and over 12 million - half the country's prewar population - have been displaced.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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