The Islamic State has surrendered in two areas south of Syria’s capital Damascus, after a month-long pro-Assad offensive.
After a weekend of claims that buses were evacuating “several hundred” ISIS fighters and family members to the Badia region in eastern Syria, the Assad regime’s military confirmed the takeover of the Yarmouk camp and the nearby town of al-Hajar al-Aswad.
“Damascus and its surroundings and Damascus countryside and its villages are completely secure areas,” the Army high command said in a televised statement.
BBC journalist Riam Dalati says that some of the ISIS evacuees have been taken to the Rukban camp, with up to 75,000 displaced near the Jordanian border.
According to Damascus Voice, dozens of hardcore #IslamicState families were bussed yesterday to #Rukban refugees camp on #Jordan borders. #Coalition & #MaT in #Tanf garrison knew about it but kept silent. News of transport also confirmed by v. credible regime source.
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) May 22, 2018
It is the first time since 2012 that the regime occupies all territory around Damascus. In early April, after two months of conventional and chemical attacks and a five-year siege, pro-Assad forces — enabled by Russian airstrikes — reclaimed the East Ghouta area to the east of the capital. Earlier this month, the Free Syrian Army capitulated in three towns to the south.
The first ISIS evacuations were reported on Saturday night, but fighting continued in the north of al-Hajar al-Aswad on Sunday. A temporary ceasefire was put in place on Sunday night.
Before the Syrian uprising began in 2011, more than 200,000 Palestinians lived in Yarmouk. The opposition took the camp in 2012, and the Assad regime imposed a siege that caused scores of deaths from starvation and lack of medicine. The Islamic State seized the camp in early 2015 from rebels.
Several thousandscivilians were estimated to remain in the devastated area.