Syrian regime launches offensive on IS-held areas in Damascus

Syrian regime launches offensive on IS-held areas in Damascus
Syrian regime forces have begun a heavy bombardment of IS-held areas in southern Damascus after evacuation negotiations with the militants failed on Thursday.
2 min read
19 April, 2018
The IS-held Yarmouk camp has been the target of regime strikes for several years [Getty]
Syrian regime forces launched a campaign of airstrikes and shelling on Thursday evening, taregting a cluster of neighbourhoods in south Damascus that is under the control of the Islamic State (IS) group, after negotiations to forcibly evacuate the militants failed, sources told The New Arab.

Forces loyal to Syria's Bashar al-Assad targeted the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and the neighbourhoods of Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam with more than 30 missile strikes, 10 barrel bombs and over surface-to-surface missiles, local sources said.

At least one civilian was killed in Yarmouk, soures added, noting a number of others were injured and a large amount of material damage was inflicted.

Negotiations between IS and regime forces ended earlier on Thursday after the two parties disagreed on where the militants would be relocated to. 

The two sides had agreed a ceasefire on Thursday morning, leading to the evacuation of some 1,200 fighters from Yarmouk and Hajar al-Aswad to IS-held areas in the Syrian Badia desert.

Regime forces had threatened, according to Syrian state media, to storm the area if the extremists did not leave within 48 hours.

Yarmouk and Hajar al-Aswad had been taken over by IS in 2015. Qadam was in contrast overrun more recently, as militants took advantage of the regime troops' focus on the blistering campaign to expel opposition fighters from Eastern Ghouta in February and March this year.

The three neighbourhoods comprise the last remaining area in the capital yet to be retaken by the Assad regime.

IS-held Yarmouk in particular has since been the target of regular regime shelling, yet the strikes on Thursday evening signal the beginning of what is threatened to be a relentless siege of the territory.

Elsewhere in the country however, IS have been gaining some traction and still hold some areas in Deir az-Zour and the Badia desert. 

On Wednesday, the militant group launched a surprise attack near the town of Mayadeen, eastern Syria, they had lost six months ago, killing at least 25 regime forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At least 13 IS members were also killed in the attack.

Mayadeen lies in the eastern province of Deir az-Zour on the western bank of the Euphrates River and is flanked by the Badia desert to its west and south.