BEIRUT – The Syrian army began preparatory shelling for an assault on the last area outside its control near Damascus on Tuesday, a commander in the pro-government alliance said, building on its recent capture of the major suburb of eastern Ghouta.
Recovering the Yarmouk camp and neighboring areas located south of the city would give President Bashar al-Assad complete control over Syria’s capital, further consolidating his grip on power.
Yarmouk, Syria’s biggest camp for Palestinian refugees since the mid-20th century, has been under the control of Islamic State fighters for several years. Although the vast majority of residents have fled, the United Nations says thousands remain.
Assad has benefited from Russian air power since 2015 to regain large swathes of Syria, putting him in his strongest position since the early months of the seven-year-old war.
The war has killed more than 500,000 people and has drawn in regional and global powers. The United States, Britain and France launched their first coordinated strikes against Assad’s government on Saturday in retaliation for what they say was a poison gas attack on April 7 that killed scores of residents in Douma, the last town in the eastern Ghouta to fall. – REUTERS
Story first published: 17th April 2018