IS Surrendering in Syrian Capital 05/20 10:32
BEIRUT (AP) -- A cease-fire between Syrian government forces and Islamic
State militants in the southern neighborhoods of Damascus has held for 24 hours
amid reports that some of the fighters have been allowed to leave, a Syrian war
monitoring group said Sunday.
The official state news agency and government officials deny reaching a deal
to allow the militants to evacuate Yarmouk and adjacent areas. State-run
Al-Ikhbariya TV said government forces plan to drive the militants from their
remaining strongholds in the area.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said buses carrying IS
fighters left the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk and the adjacent
al-Tadamon neighborhood overnight. A video circulating on social media showed
lines of buses waiting in the camp with engines on. It was not clear who filmed
the video or where the busses were going.
Damascus residents said the situation was calm, with no warplanes flying
overhead Sunday. Al-Watan, a pro-government newspaper, said the militants are
believed to have surrendered. The Observatory said IS militants began burning
their posts in Yarmouk and adjacent areas. Residents reported smoke was
billowing over the area.
The state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV said a new plan is underway to storm IS-held
areas in Hajar al-Aswad, near Yarmouk. An al-Ikhbariya reporter in the area
said the coming hours will be "decisive" for restoring government control over
Hajar al-Aswad, but didn't mention Yarmouk.
President Bashar Assad's forces launched an offensive against the militants
in southern Damascus a month ago. The offensive has brought more than 70
percent of the camp under government control. The capture of the southern
neighborhoods would bring the entire capital under government control for the
first time since the war began in 2011.
Yarmouk began as a refugee camp for Palestinians who fled or were expelled
from what is now Israel during the 1948 war. On the eve of Syria's civil war it
was a built-up residential area home to tens of thousands of Palestinians and
IS has been driven from virtually all the territory it once controlled in
Syria and neighboring Iraq, but is still present in remote areas along the