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IS Surrendering in Syrian Capital      05/20 10:32

   BEIRUT (AP) -- A cease-fire between Syrian government forces and Islamic 
State militants in the southern neighborhoods of Damascus has held for 24 hours 
amid reports that some of the fighters have been allowed to leave, a Syrian war 
monitoring group said Sunday.

   The official state news agency and government officials deny reaching a deal 
to allow the militants to evacuate Yarmouk and adjacent areas. State-run 
Al-Ikhbariya TV said government forces plan to drive the militants from their 
remaining strongholds in the area.

   The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said buses carrying IS 
fighters left the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk and the adjacent 
al-Tadamon neighborhood overnight. A video circulating on social media showed 
lines of buses waiting in the camp with engines on. It was not clear who filmed 
the video or where the busses were going.

   Damascus residents said the situation was calm, with no warplanes flying 
overhead Sunday. Al-Watan, a pro-government newspaper, said the militants are 
believed to have surrendered. The Observatory said IS militants began burning 
their posts in Yarmouk and adjacent areas. Residents reported smoke was 
billowing over the area.

   The state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV said a new plan is underway to storm IS-held 
areas in Hajar al-Aswad, near Yarmouk. An al-Ikhbariya reporter in the area 
said the coming hours will be "decisive" for restoring government control over 
Hajar al-Aswad, but didn't mention Yarmouk.

   President Bashar Assad's forces launched an offensive against the militants 
in southern Damascus a month ago. The offensive has brought more than 70 
percent of the camp under government control. The capture of the southern 
neighborhoods would bring the entire capital under government control for the 
first time since the war began in 2011.

   Yarmouk began as a refugee camp for Palestinians who fled or were expelled 
from what is now Israel during the 1948 war. On the eve of Syria's civil war it 
was a built-up residential area home to tens of thousands of Palestinians and 
Syrians.

   IS has been driven from virtually all the territory it once controlled in 
Syria and neighboring Iraq, but is still present in remote areas along the 
border.


(KA)

 
 
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