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On April 19, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies supported by warplanes of the Syrian Air Force launched a military operation against ISIS in the Yarmouk refugee camp and the al-Hajar al-Aswad district in southern Damascus. The SAA also involved artillery guns and rocket launchers to support the attack.
The development came after negotiations on a possible withdrawal of ISIS members from the area to the eastern Homs desert had collapsed. However, according to local sources, the ISIS members in Yarmouk still have chances to accept a withdrawal agreement.
On the same day, militants in the main Eastern Qalamoun pocket surrendered to the SAA and accepted an agreement under which they will be able to withdraw to the militant held parts of Aleppo and Idlib provinces or to settle their legal status. Militants already began handing over their heavy weapons, including a few battle tanks. The evacuation process is set to be started on April 20.
With the liberation of Eastern Qalamoun and southern Damascus, the SAA will be able to free a large force for further operations against militants across the country. One of the key problem areas is southern Syria where, according to Russian military and diplomatic sources, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and its allies are preparing to launch a large advance in order to capture the city of Daraa.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry’s TV channel Zvezda, militants are actively receiving support via corridors established in the militant-held areas on the Syrian-Israeli and Syrian-Jordanian borders. The estimated strength of the militants’ force is 12,000 members with hundreds units of military equipment, tens artillery pieces and rocket launchers.
Meanwhile, US State Department accused Damascus and Moscow of preventing the OPCW mission from investigating the site of the alleged chemical attack in Douma.
In turn, Russian Foreign Ministry said that Syrian troops have found “containers with chlorine” from Germany and “smoke grenades” produced in the UK city of Salisbury in the liberated areas of Eastern Ghouta. The region where the alleged chemical attack took place in the town of Douma on April 7.
Syria has handed over to Russia two cruise missiles unexploded after the recent US-led strike on the country, the Russian state-run news agency TASS reported citing a source in the Syrian Defense Ministry. According to the report, the missiles were sent to Russia in good condition by plane on April 18.
The Russian Defense Ministry has not commented on this report yet.
On April 14, the US, the UK and France carried out a massive missile strike on Syrian targets. According to the Pentagon, all 105 launched missiles hit their targets. In turn, the Russian Defense Ministry says that 71 missile had been intercepted.