Middle East

Syrian army targets south Damascus insurgent enclave

FILE PHOTO: Syrian Army soldiers stand near weapons that belonged to rebels in Dumayr

FILE PHOTO: Syrian Army soldiers stand near weapons that belonged to rebels from Eastern Qalamoun, after they handed them over, at the town of Dumayr, Damascus, Syria April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian army bombarded a jihadist enclave in south Damascus on Monday, state television and a war monitor said, as President Bashar al-Assad seeks to regain all ground near the capital.

The military focus on the area, where Islamic State holds a pocket next to one held by rebel factions, began last week after the army took back eastern Ghouta.

Rebels in two other enclaves northeast of Damascus surrendered in recent days. Buses transferring fighters from one of them to opposition territory in northern Syria under safe passage from the government continued to leave on Monday, state media said.

On Friday, state television and a war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Islamic State and the rebels had agreed to surrender the south Damascus area, withdrawing to territory their comrades control in other parts of the country.

However, the fighting has continued and the Observatory said on Monday that it was because some of the Islamic State fighters had rejected the surrender agreement.

The continued bombardment was directed only at the area held by Islamic State, the Observatory added.

State television broadcast live footage showing the area of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and the al-Hajar al-Aswad district with large plumes of smoke rising from several places.

UNRWA, the U.N. agency that cares for Palestinians, said on Sunday that conditions in Yarmouk were hellish. “There must be safe passage for the sick and the wounded and the dying civilians,” said Chris Gunness, the UNRWA spokesman.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)



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