Fighting Continues Despite Victory Claim
Pro-government forces were reported to have clashed with members of the so-called Islamic State in eastern Syria on Thursday, only hours after the Assad government declared total victory over the militant group.
The United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Lebanese Hezbollah, Iranian-backed Iraqi militias and Syrian troops were still fighting with militants in areas around Boukamal, the last town ISIS had held in Syria, near the border with Iraq.
The monitoring group said that clashes broke out hours after ISIS withdrew from Boukamal. Explosions could still be heard near the Iraqi border on Thursday.
The Syrian government declared victory over ISIS the same day after militants withdrew from their last main stronghold in Syria, Reuters reported.
The capture of the town of Boukamal sealed “the fall of the terrorist Daesh organization’s project in the region,” an army statement said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
U.N. Warns of Catastrophe in Eastern Ghouta
A United Nations official warned that civilians stuck in the besieged Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus face a “complete catastrophe” because of the lack of aid deliveries and medical assistance, Reuters reported.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Thursday, U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said 29 civilians, including 18 children, were at risk of imminent death. Seven others, he said, had already died.
“I feel as if we are now returning to some of the bleakest days of this conflict again,” Egeland said. “Nowhere is it as bad as in Eastern Ghouta.”
There are some 400,000 civilians trapped in the rebel-held suburbs east of the capital. The area has been completely sealed off by the army since September.
U.S. and Russia ‘Nearing Solution for War’
A report published by the Associated Press on Friday claimed that an agreement between Russia and the United States to resolve the Syrian conflict is near.
If signed, the deal could be announced by President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin on Friday, the AP said, citing four unidentified U.S. officials.
The purported agreement, the agency said, would focus on “deconfliction between the U.S. and Russian militaries, reducing violence in the civil war and reinvigorating U.N.-led peace talks.”
The reduction of violence will build on progress in establishing so-called de-escalation zones in Syria, according to the AP. The U.S. and Russia agreed to a de-escalation zone in southern Syria in July. Trump said at the time the deal could be replicated in other parts of the country.
“The U.S.-Russia deal may also seek to expand the mandate of a joint ‘monitoring center’ established this year in Amman, Jordan, to watch for cease-fire violations and other developments on the ground,” the AP said.
The rumored deal comes at a time when ISIS is nearing defeat after losing all its major strongholds in Syria in recent weeks.
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