Syrian regime declares Damascus fully secure

Once a thriving district home to some 160,000 Palestinians and Syrians Yarmuk’s population has fallen to just a few hundred people. – AFP

The Syrian army pushed Islamic State militants out of a south Damascus pocket on Monday and declared the Syrian capital and its surroundings "completely safe" from militants for the first time in almost seven years.

"The Syrian army announces today that Damascus, its outskirts and surrounding towns are completely secure", it said in a statement carried on official media.

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.

The capital Damascus and its countryside are empty of "terror groups" after the elimination of IS from Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk Camp south of Damascus on Monday, which followed the recent defeat of rebels from other areas east and north of Damascus.

The captured areas included the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus, which was the site of an intense barrel-bombing campaign by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad against rebels and civilians in the early years of the civil war that began in March 2011.

An Al-Ikhbariya reporter in the area said the coming hours will be "decisive" for restoring government control over Hajar Al-Aswad, but did not mention Yarmouk.

The Syrian army and its allies have been battling for weeks to recapture the last area outside government control in or around the capital.

However, despite daily airstrikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes, SAA and allied forces soon became entrenched in the dense urban landscape of south Damascus, making slow progress.

Mr Al Assad has already ousted tens of thousands of rebels and civilians from areas around Damascus this year through military force and negotiated withdrawals, including the rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta.

Al-Ikhbariya TV said a new plan is underway to storm IS-held areas in Hajar al-Aswad, near Yarmouk.

"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.

"The evacuations are over, after 32 buses took 1,600 people including IS fighters and their relatives out of southern Damascus on Sunday and Monday", said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

With Iran's help, Assad's forces have been making steady gains since 2015, when Russian Federation launched an air campaign on behalf of his forces.

The US-led coalition told AFP on Monday it was aware of the reported evacuations from Yarmuk and was "monitoring the situation".

Putin told Assad during a meeting Thursday that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to pull out their troops from Syria.

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