A Syrian army soldier walks past the rubble of damaged buildings in al-Hajar al-Aswad, May 21. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
The Syrian government forces on Monday announced that the last extremist stronghold in southern Damascus, the al-Hajar al-Aswad District, has been recaptured, marking the military’s complete control over Damascus and its suburb areas after seven years of fighting.
The al-Hajar al-Aswad District is seven kilometers to downtown Damascus. The government troops on April 19 began its military operation to take back the district, along with the adjacent Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp which was occupied by extremists, using airstrikes and intensive cannon and rocket strikes.
Earlier in the day, the Syrian government denied reports that the government forces observed a brief ceasefire with extremists on Sunday.
It stated that the government forces only implemented a short-term moratorium so that women, children, and the elderly could withdraw, and resumed cleanup operations on the afternoon of Monday, eventually ending the extremists’ presence in the capital and its surrounding areas.
“In the last period (of the operation), we surrounded the local extremists, and the encirclement became very small as we are closing in. The combat with extremists became very short-ranged, and we eventually neutralized them,” said Colonel Ahmad Ezzeldin.
The recapture of al-Hajar al-Aswad District marks the complete liberation of Damascus since 2011. The government forces will continue to sweep houses and tunnels for hidden suicide attackers and snipers next. — Reuters
US says chemical arms inspectors still have not entered site of Syrian attack
A boy walks along a damaged street at the city of Douma in Damascus, Syria, April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
The United States believes inspectors from a global chemical weapons watchdog have not yet been able to enter the site of the April 7 alleged chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Douma.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday she was aware of reports from Syria that inspectors from the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons had been able to see the site but the team has not entered Douma.
She said the United States had information that both chlorine and sarin nerve gas were used in the attack and was concerned that evidence was deteriorating the longer inspectors were kept from reaching the site.
“The longer that it takes to get OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) inspectors in to take a look at soil samples and other information that they can get on the ground, that delay further degrades any evidence that’s on the ground. So that is our chief concern,” Nauert said. — Reuters