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Syrian army targets south Damascus insurgent enclave

War monitor reported 12 civilians killed in regime strikes on Yarmouk refugee camp

By Agencies - Apr 23,2018 - Last updated at Apr 23,2018

A photo taken on Sunday shows smoke billowing from the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, south of the Syrian capital Damascus, during regime strikes targeting Daesh in the camp (AFP photo)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Syrian army bombarded a militant enclave in south Damascus on Monday, state television and a war monitor said, as President Bashar Assad seeks to regain all ground near the capital.

The military focus on the area, where Daesh holds a pocket next to one held by rebel factions, began last week after the army took back Eastern Ghouta, Reuters News Agency reported.

Rebels in two other enclaves northeast of Damascus surrendered in recent days. Buses transferring fighters from one of them to opposition territory in northern Syria under safe passage from the government continued to leave on Monday, state media said, according to Reuters.  

On Friday, state television and a war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Daesh and the rebels had agreed to surrender the south Damascus area, withdrawing to territory their comrades control in other parts of the country. 

However, the fighting has continued and the Observatory said on Monday that it was because some of the Daesh fighters had rejected the surrender agreement. 

The continued bombardment was directed only at the area held by Daesh, the observatory added. 

State television broadcast live footage showing the area of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and the Al Hajar Al Aswad district with large plumes of smoke rising from several places, Reuters reported. 

UNRWA, the UN agency that cares for Palestinians, said on Sunday that conditions in Yarmouk were hellish. "There must be safe passage for the sick and the wounded and the dying civilians," said Chris Gunness, the UNRWA spokesman.

Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday that an elderly man was killed in shelling on Yarmouk, and another died after he was wounded in bombardment there the previous day, according to the observatory.

The war monitor said that the assault has left 12 civilians dead, including women and children, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday. 

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), said the bombardment had pushed most Yarmouk residents to flee their homes and put the area's last hospital out of service.

"Since the start of fighting four days ago, most of the 6,000 civilians in Yarmouk camp have been forcibly displaced to the neighbouring area of Yalda," he said.

"The last functioning hospital inside Yarmouk, Palestine Hospital, is now completely unable to operate," Gunness said.

He called on all sides to allow civilians to leave safely, for the sick and wounded to be evacuated, and for safe access for humanitarian workers to distribute food and medicine.

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