Syria army declares capital, outskirts safe, empty of rebels

Li Jiayao

DAMASCUS, May 21 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army on Monday declared the capital Damascus safe and empty of rebels, following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in areas south of Damascus, according to the state news agency SANA.

The capital Damascus and its countryside are empty of "terror groups" after the elimination of IS from Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk Camp south of Damascus on Monday, which followed the recent defeat of rebels from other areas east and north of Damascus.

The significance of this achievement emanates from the defeat of the most "vicious terrorist group" and proves that the Syrian army has become more powerful and determined to eliminate the terrorist groups in other Syrian areas.

In an earlier report, the state TV said the Syrian army fully wrested control over the Hajar al-Aswad area, a key IS stronghold south of the capital Damascus.

The recapture of Hajar al-Aswad follows a month-long offensive by the army to recapture some areas under IS control.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian state TV said a brief cease-fire went into force on Sunday afternoon until Monday noon for the evacuation of humanitarian cases from Hajar al-Aswad before the military operation continued in that area.

The state TV aired footages of the largely-devastated Hajar al-Aswad with Syrian soldiers firing celebratory gunshots while chanting for the Syrian army.

The battle in Hajar al-Aswad was complicated as that area is jam-packed with buildings that are so close to each other, making a ground offensive extremely difficult.

The Syrian warplanes have carried out intense airstrikes on Hajar al-Aswad and the nearby Yarmouk Camp over the past month.



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