Syria regime forces shell Damascus militant bastion

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BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces shelled the last pockets in Damascus controlled by the Daesh group, preparing the ground for a possible assault on the militants stronghold, a monitor said Wednesday.

After fully retaking the Eastern Ghouta region on the edge of the capital, the Syrian regime has turned its attention to other areas across the country that still escape its control.

Among them are neighborhoods in southern Damascus from which many civilians have fled but are still held by Daesh, including the Yarmuk area that hosts a Palestinian refugee camp.

“Regime forces shelled several Daesh positions in Yarmuk camp and Hajjar Al-Aswad, killing one person and wounded several others,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Both sides had traded fire the previous night, the Britain-based monitor said, causing at least five deaths, most of them regime soldiers.

“The regime is turning up the heat ahead of a big assault that would break Daesh’s back and force them to evacuate the area,” the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.

Daesh still has a presence in Yarmuk, and the neighboring areas of Hajjar Al-Aswad, Tadamon and Qadam.

Yarmuk used to be the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, with a population of 160,000, but only a few thousand people remain inside the devastated area.

The Syrian army and its allies have focused their efforts on securing Damascus lately.

They retook full control earlier this month of Eastern Ghouta, a large semi-rural area to the east of the capital that was held by rebels for six years.

The state news agency SANA reported on Tuesday that a deal had been reached for rebels to quit Dumayr, a town further to the east, where a reconciliation agreement had kept a security status quo since 2016

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