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Capital Damascus and its surroundings completely secure: Syrian army

The Syrian army reported the capital Damascus and its surroundings were completely secure after the army removed the last insurgent-held area around the capital of Islamic State fighters on Monday.

“Damascus and its surroundings and Damascus countryside and its villages are completely secure areas,” the army high command said in a televised statement, adding that the army would continue to fight “terrorism” across Syria.

Shortly before noon Monday, when the truce was supposed to end, government warplanes struck IS-held areas as Syrian troops began pounding and advancing slowly in the remaining IS-held neighbourhoods in Damascus, according to state TV.

“The Daesh terrorist organization is living its last hours” in the Damascus area, the TV’s reporter said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to IS.

Damascus residents said warplanes were flying over the city again. The fighting resumed in the Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood and the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

The Observatory said on Monday that a new batch of fighters and their families left late Sunday, heading east toward the Syrian desert. It added that IS fighters have been setting their offices and vehicles on fire so that government forces would not be able to capture equipment or documents belonging to the group.

President Bashar Assad’s forces launched an offensive against IS militants in southern Damascus a month ago. The offensive has brought more than 70 % of the area under government control.

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In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman said Iranian forces will not be leaving Syria but would continue fighting “terrorism” there, at the request of the Syrian government.

Bahram Ghasemi told reporters on Monday that no one can force Tehran to do anything it doesn’t desire to do.

“Our presence in Syria has been based on the request by Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants,” he said.

Vladimir Putin’s envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said on Friday that the Russian President’s statement about the need for the foreign troop pullout from Syria referred to Iran, Mr. Assad’s key regional ally.

Russia and Iran have been Mr. Assad’s strongest backers and have joined the war on his side.


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