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Syria regime advances in Daesh-held pocket of Damascus

By AFP - May 15,2018 - Last updated at May 15,2018

This handout photo released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on Sunday shows government forces heading towards militant positions in the Hajar Al Aswad district on the southern outskirts of Damascus (AFP photo)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian regime forces on Tuesday retook a neighbourhood south of Damascus from Daesh, slicing off yet another part of the militant holdout, a monitoring group said.

The government of President Bashar Al Assad has since April 19 waged a fierce air and ground assault against the final Daesh-held pocket of the capital. 

"The Syrian regime has seized control of the entire district of Hajar Al Aswad," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

Fighting for Hajar Al Aswad had been particularly bloody, Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Since the assault began in April, 221 pro-government fighters and 189 Daesh militants have been killed — nearly half of them in Hajar Al Aswad alone. 

Daesh remains in control of the nearby district of Tadamun and 70 per cent of the adjacent district of Yarmouk, a sprawling Palestinian camp. 

"If the regime continues to advance on the ground, Daesh will be surrounded and will be forced to negotiate an evacuation deal," Abdel Rahman said. 

Such deals have allowed the government to recapture swathes of territory across Syria.

Around 160,000 Palestinian refugees once lived in Yarmouk, as well as Syrians. Just a few hundred people remain there now. 

Daesh declared a "caliphate" in 2014 that included territory across Syria's north, centre and east — but it now controls no more than five per cent of the country. 

Besides Yarmouk, it holds some desert territory in Syria's centre and east. 

More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in 2011. 

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