Iraq News

Syrian regime, allies retake al-Hajar al-Aswad

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo


Weapons and ammunition abandoned behind by the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' can be seen in al-Hajar al-Aswad south of Damascus. [Photo courtesy of Bahaa al-Sahli]

The Syrian regime and allied militias have retaken al-Hajar al-Aswad in their ongoing operations to oust the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) from the areas around Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in south Damascus.

"The Syrian regime has seized control of the entire district of al-Hajar al-Aswad," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman said Tuesday (May 15th).

The area where military ​​operations are being conducted is still coming under intense airstrikes and shelling, an activist inside the camp told Diyaruna.

This has led to the displacement of dozens of families from the camp, some of whom have lost contact with remaining family members and other camp residents, who they fear may have been killed in the airstrikes and shelling.


'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' elements have used this makeshift bridge to move from building to building in the ongoing street warfare in al-Hajar al-Aswad. [Photo courtesy of Bahaa al-Sahli]

Syrian regime forces and allied militias advanced in the northern part of al-Hajar al-Aswad, which is adjacent to Yarmouk, said activist Bahaa al-Sahli.

Fighting has been limited to some pockets of Yarmouk, al-Tadamon district and the area between al-Hajar al-Aswad and the camp, he told Diyaruna.

These areas are the last refuge for ISIS and pose a considerable obstacle for the regime and its allies, he said, as they are known to be riddled with tunnels that allow ISIS elements to move about freely and constantly change their location.

'Daily shelling and airstrikes'

ISIS fighters recently abandoned al-Tatweer building and a cluster of buildings in the northwestern corner of al-Hajar al-Aswad, al-Sahli said.

In the Yarmouk camp, ISIS has withdrawn from al-Thalatheen street, the Assad bin al-Furat school and the UNRWA school.

A large number of regime soldiers and allied militia fighters have been wounded or killed, mostly by ISIS sniper fire in all the combat zones, he said.

The area of Yarmouk ISIS controls continues to come under daily shelling and airstrikes, al-Sahli said, noting that dozens of families have fled to areas near the camp, particularly Beit Sahm and its environs.

In addition to their concerns about those left behind in the camp, displaced Yarmouk residents are concerned about looting, he said.

There have been numerous reports of this occurring under the pretext that the owners of the robbed homes are ISIS elements or loyalists, he added.

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