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Syrian army controls capital after ousting Islamic State

Syrian army controls capital after ousting Islamic State

Although most militants left the area, separate extremist groups remained in the camp, the news outlet said, adding that government forces had launched a mop-up operation.

The area is centred around the Al Hajar Al Aswad district and the adjoining Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, the largest in Syria.

The Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hizballah, have been key - along with Russian air power - in aiding Syrian government forces to recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country's northern and central areas.

A state television presenter said the recovery of al-Hajar al-Aswad meant the area south of Damascus had been completely cleared of insurgents.

Syrian Gen. Ali Mayhoub said in a TV broadcast that the army had captured ISIS strongholds in the Palestinian Yarmouk camp, a Damascus district populated by Palestinian refugees, and Hajar al-Aswad, a city two miles south from the center of Damascus, according to Reuters.

For four weeks, Syrian troops and allied Palestinian fighters waged a relentless battle for Yarmuk, as well as Hajar al-Aswad, Qadam, and Tadamun.

The battle in Hajar al-Aswad was complicated as that area is jam-packed with buildings that are so close to each other, making a ground offensive extremely hard.

The fighting in southern Damascus has left scores of dead on both sides and caused massive destruction in the Yarmouk camp, which was a built-up residential area, and its surroundings.

Syrian army controls capital after ousting Islamic State

But in a first official comment on evacuations, a military source said Monday that a brief ceasefire had allowed some civilians to be transferred out overnight.

"A second batch of elements from ISIS left after midnight", the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Syrian army is close to gain control of the last areas of Damascus held by opponents of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Mr Assad last week met Vladimir Putin, the president of Russian Federation, in Sochi.

Syrian government forces and their allies have been battling to recover the enclave south of Damascus since defeating rebels in Eastern Ghouta, also near the capital, in April.

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

Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been instrumental in helping Assad's over-stretched forces recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country's centre and north, building a military presence that has alarmed Israel and its USA ally, which is now looking to constrain Iran's activities.

"Our presence in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants", he said, speaking shortly before Pompeo made his remarks.

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