Assad prepares to assault final insurgent enclave close to Damascus

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian military started preparatory shelling for an assault on the final space exterior its management close to Damascus on Tuesday, a commander within the pro-government alliance mentioned, constructing on its current seize of the most important suburb of japanese Ghouta.

Members of Syrian police sit at a broken constructing on the metropolis of Douma, Damascus, Syria April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

Recovering the Yarmouk camp and neighboring areas positioned south of town would give President Bashar al-Assad full management over Syria’s capital, additional consolidating his grip on energy.

Yarmouk, Syria’s greatest camp for Palestinian refugees because the mid-20th century, has been below the management of Islamic State fighters for a number of years. Though the overwhelming majority of residents have fled, the United Nations says hundreds stay.

Assad has benefited from Russian air energy since 2015 to regain giant swathes of Syria, placing him in his strongest place because the early months of the seven-year-old conflict.

The conflict has killed greater than 500,000 folks and has drawn in regional and world powers. The US, Britain and France launched their first coordinated strikes towards Assad’s authorities on Saturday in retaliation for what they are saying was a poison fuel assault on April 7 that killed scores of residents in Douma, the final city within the japanese Ghouta to fall.

The Western missiles destroyed three targets that had been evacuated prematurely, however did nothing to change the broader course of the conflict, leaving Assad’s Russian-backed forces nonetheless on the offensive with the purpose of recapturing the complete nation.

Damascus and Moscow have each denied utilizing poison fuel and have broadcast statements from hospital employees in Douma – which medical assist teams working in insurgent areas have dismissed as propaganda – saying that no chemical assault occurred.

A group of worldwide chemical weapons inspectors that arrived in Damascus on Friday has nonetheless not visited Douma to collect proof, although Russia mentioned it might achieve this on Wednesday.

Syrian state media reported that missiles had once more focused an airbase in a single day, however a commander within the regional army alliance backing the federal government later instructed Reuters it was a false alarm.

The commander, talking on situation of anonymity, mentioned the brand new offensive would goal Islamic State and Nusra Entrance militants in Yarmouk camp and al-Hajar al-Aswad district. Rebels within the adjoining Beit Sahm space would withdraw on buses by means of an settlement with the federal government, the commander mentioned.

ASSAULT

A authorities media tour on Monday of Douma, the most important city within the former insurgent enclave of japanese Ghouta simply exterior Damascus, revealed extreme destruction and the plight of residents who had survived years of siege.

The assault on japanese Ghouta started in February and resulted in authorities victory on Saturday when rebels withdrew from the city, hours after the Western nations have been completed with their air strikes on buildings they mentioned have been used to analysis or retailer chemical weapons and tools.

Every of the insurgent teams controlling areas of japanese Ghouta finally agreed give up offers that concerned withdrawal to opposition-held areas of northwestern Syria together with Idlib.

After the recapture of japanese Ghouta, Assad nonetheless has a number of smaller pockets of floor to get well from rebels, in addition to two main areas they maintain within the northwest and southwest.

Moreover the pocket south of Damascus, rebels nonetheless maintain besieged enclaves within the city of Dumayr northeast of Damascus, within the Japanese Qalamoun mountains close by, and round Rastan north of Homs.

The professional-government commander mentioned the military had ready for army motion within the Japanese Qalamoun, however that Russia was engaged on the militants’ withdrawal with out a battle. State tv mentioned on Tuesday that rebels in Dumayr had additionally agreed to withdraw.

In northwest Syria, the biggest space nonetheless held by rebels, a authorities assault might carry Damascus into confrontation with Turkey, which has arrange a string of army commentary posts within the space.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a prime Iranian official, mentioned throughout a go to to Damascus final week that he hoped that the military would quickly regain Idlib and areas of japanese Syria now held by an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias backed by Washington.

Reporting by Laila Bassam, further reporting by Dahlia Nehme; Writing by Angus McDowall; Modifying by Peter Graff

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