Syrian army declares Damascus area secure after clearing out ISIS-controlled pocket

A Syrian Arab Army tank enters the Yarmouk camp in south Damascus on Monday

A Syrian Arab Army tank enters the Yarmouk camp in south Damascus on Monday

The Syrian regime says it has retaken the last neighbourhoods in southern Damascus held by Daesh and declared the capital and its surroundings "completely safe" from militants for the first time in almost seven years.

In a televised statement on Monday afternoon, Gen Mayhoub announced that "Damascus and its surroundings, its countryside and its towns, are completely secure" following "a series of intensive and successive military operations".

Syria's state media denied a deal was reached to evacuate fighters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom -based war monitor group, said there was a Russian-brokered deal between the Syrian government and IS militants to leave the area.

"Buses carrying families of IS and civilians already arrived to Homs province [in] central Syria, while about 1,000 IS fighters will leave to the Syrian Desert, probably to eastern Deir el-Zour", Ismael said.

Residents of the capital will breathe a sigh of relief, our correspondent adds, but further south and to the north in Idlib, hundreds of thousands of people in rebel-held areas will be fearful that pro-government forces will come for them next.

The announcement that the Islamic State group has been ousted marks a milestone in the war and comes after government troops captured a southern part of Damascus and the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk.

It said a new plan is underway to storm Daesh-held areas in Hajar Al-Aswad, near Yarmouk.

Syrian soldiers in the Yarmouk camp on Monday
Syrian soldiers in the Yarmouk camp on Monday

Syria's civil war began in 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

Pro-regime forces, specifically Palestinian militias, had been fighting since April 19 to recapture Yarmuk, Tadamun, and the nearby districts of Qadam and Hajar al-Aswad from IS.

Monday's reported SAA capture of south Damascus came in the wake of reports that IS fighters were evacuated from their positions in the capital over the weekend under an agreement with government forces.

A military source close to the regime said the deal had been reached through negotiations with the government and its ally Russian Federation.

"The largest group went towards Syria's Badiya, because the Americans did not agree to let them enter pockets east of the Euphrates where the Syrian Democratic Forces are present".

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters that no one can force Tehran to do anything it doesn't want to do.

Iran and Russian Federation have joined forces in Syria, providing crucial military support to Assad's forces and giving them the upper hand in the civil war. Mr Putin said he expected foreign forces to withdraw from Syria soon as the political process moves forward.

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