Syrian army captures areas near IS stronghold in southern Damascus

State television and the official SANA news agency said a deal had reportedly been reached between the army and "terrorist groups" in the camp to allow them safe passage to the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib in return for the evacuation of civilians in two besieged Shi'ite villages in the province.

The announcement comes more than a week into a government assault to oust Islamic State (IS) group militants from the capital's southern suburbs, including the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

That bombardment intensified Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said, as regime forces advanced against Daesh inside the districts.

It came hours after the Syrian government and rebels agreed to evacuate opposition fighters from the areas of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem, also in southern Damascus, according to SANA.

"The silence of the worldwide community to the war crimes being committed against defenseless Palestinians in a refugee camp in Syria is an insult", Abu Toameh wrote.

The strikes on Sunday are part of a campaign to retake the last rebel-held towns on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, which has seen a dramatic increase of violence over the last weeks.

The militants have held parts of Yarmuk and Hajar al-Aswad since 2015, and overran Qadam in a surprise assault last month.

Regime forces were locked in violent clashes with IS fighters on Friday morning, the Britain-based monitor said.

At Least 4 Palestinians Killed As Deadly Violence Again Roils Gaza Protests
Hamdallah's convoy came under attack last month during a visit to the Gaza Strip to open a public-works facility there. Tap water is undrinkable and its Mediterranean coast has been polluted with untreated waste.

The weeklong fighting in Hajar al-Aswad and the nearby Yarmouk camp has killed dozens of fighters on both sides.

Yarmuk and the surroundings are now IS's largest urban redoubt in Syria or neighbouring Iraq.

At least 36 civilians have been killed in regime bombardment during the same period, it said.

The Palestinian refugee population of Yarmouk had dwindled from around 160,000 in 2011 to just 6,000 last month, according to United Nations estimates.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad this month defeated rebels in their biggest stronghold near Damascus in eastern Ghouta, and has since then focused on ending resistance in several smaller pockets near the Syrian capital.

Eastern Ghouta fell after a brutal military operation and a series of similar evacuation deals brokered by government ally Russian Federation that saw tens of thousands of residents bussed to northern Syria.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

  • Megan Austin