Damascus; Air strikes pounded a opposition-held area near Damascus on Sunday, footage broadcast by Syrian regime TV stations showed, as the Assad regime stepped up efforts to wipe out the opposition’s last foothold near the capital.
Thick clouds of smoke rose from the al Hajar al Aswad area and the sound of jets could be heard in broadcasts from the area just south of Damascus that is controlled by both opposition groups and militants from the Daesh and former al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front groups.
UNRWA, the United Nations agency that cares for Palestinians, said two Palestinian refugee civilians – a father and son – had been killed in their home in the adjacent Palestinian camp of Yarmouk.
Thousands of homes had been destroyed in Yarmouk in the last four days of fighting, Chris Gunness, UNRWA spokesman, said.
“There must be safe passage for the sick and the wounded and the dying civilians,” he said.
“Yarmouk has been transformed into a death camp, like one of the lower regions of hell.”
The extremist-held enclave is adjoined by a pocket held by other opposition groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner.
Regime leader Bashar al Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, is seeking to crush the last few besieged opposition enclaves, building on the defeat of fighters in the eastern Ghouta region, which was the opposition groups’ last major stronghold near the capital.
Opposition fighters on Saturday began to withdraw from an enclave they held northeast of Damascus in the eastern Qalamoun region in a surrender agreement with the regime.
They are being transported to opposition-held territory at the Turkish border.
Although the conquest of eastern Qalamoun and the enclave south of Damascus will leave just one remaining besieged opposition enclave, north of the city of Homs, large parts of Syria at the borders with Jordan, Israel, Turkey and Iraq remain outside Assad’s control.
Anti-Assad groups hold a chunk of territory in the southwest and the northwest, and the PKK-linked YPG-led militias, backed by the United States, control an expanse of northern and eastern Syria.
Iraqi air strikes
Iraq said on Sunday its forces had killed “36 terrorists” belonging to Daesh, including senior members, in air raids this past week in Syria.
A video of Thursday’s operation showed two F-16 fighter jets destroying a house in eastern Syria.
The air raids were carried near the town of Hajin in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Iraqi border.
“The Iraqi air raids, carried out by several F-16s in Syria on April 19, targeted IS (Daesh) terrorists who represented a danger to Iraq,” said General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which coordinates the fight against Daesh in Iraq.