Syria Gov't Resumes Anti-IS Offensive 05/21 06:01
Syrian government forces on Monday resumed their offensive against the
Islamic State group in the south of Damascus, after evacuating a group of
civilians from the area, Syrian state TV reported.
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian government forces on Monday resumed their offensive
against the Islamic State group in the south of Damascus, after evacuating a
group of civilians from the area, Syrian state TV reported.
The TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying a truce had been in
place to evacuate women, children and elderly on Sunday night from Damascus'
southern neighborhood of Hajar al-Aswad.
Shortly before noon Monday, when the truce was supposed to end, government
warplanes struck IS held areas as Syrian troops began pounding and advancing
slowly in the remaining IS-held neighborhoods in Damascus, according to state
"The Daesh terrorist organization is living its last hours" in the Damascus
area, the TV's reporter said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to IS.
Damascus residents said warplanes were flying over the city again. The
fighting resumed in the Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood 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
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.
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 Tehran, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman said Iranian forces will not be
leaving Syria but would continue fighting "terrorism" there, at the request of
the Syrian government.
Bahram Ghasemi told reporters Monday that no one can force Tehran to do
anything it doesn't desire to do.
"Our presence in Syria has been based on request by Syrian government and
Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants," he said.
Vladimir Putin's envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said on Friday that
the Russian president's statement about the need for foreign troop pullout from
Syria referred to Iran, Assad's key regional ally.
Putin told Assad during a meeting Thursday that a political settlement in
Syria should encourage foreign countries to pull out their troops from Syria.
Russia and Iran have been Assad's strongest backers and have joined the war
on his side.