Syrian government to resume anti-IS offensive in Damascus

May 21, 2018 - 4:47 am

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces were to resume their offensive against the Islamic State group in the south of the capital, after evacuating a group of civilians from the area, Syrian state TV reported Monday.

The TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying that a truce had been in place to evacuate women, children and elderly people on Sunday night from Damascus' southern neighborhood of Hajar al-Aswad.

The official said the cease-fire ends at noon Monday, after which government forces will resume their operations in the Hajar al-Aswad 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 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.

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

The capture of these southern neighborhoods would bring the entire Syrian capital under government control for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

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