Dozens Killed in Battles Against ISIS in Southern Damascus
More than a dozen pro-government fighters have been killed in battles with the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) south of Damascus over the past five days, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday.
Citing the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), AFP said that 15 government loyalists and 19 ISIS fighters have been killed since the government launched an offensive on militants in the Yarmouk camp last Thursday.
Around 12 civilians were also reportedly killed over that same period, the SOHR said.
The government’s latest push in southern Damascus is part of a wider effort to place the entire capital and its surrounding environs under the hold of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
It follows a string of evacuation deals that have seen rebels transported out of pockets in the Damascus region over the past two weeks, including the town of Dumayr and the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus. Rebels in the Eastern Qalamoun region have also started to evacuate the area as part of a deal with the Syrian government.
Current military operations have focused on driving ISIS militants from the Yarmouk camp and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district, also in southern Damascus.
Citing Syrian state media, the Associated Press said on Monday that government forces were trying to isolate ISIS militants holed up in the Hajar al-Aswad district from surrounding rebel-held territory, including the besieged suburbs of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem.
Russia: No Final Decision Yet on Delivery of Missile System to Syria
Russia said on Monday it has not yet decided whether it will deliver the S-300 missile system to Syria, Reuters reported, citing the Russian TASS news agency.
“We’ll have to wait to see what specific decisions the Russian leadership and representatives of Syria will take,” foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying. “There is probably no secret about this and it can all be announced (if a decision is taken).”
The comments by Lavrov come hours after Russia’s daily Kommersant newspaper cited unidentified military sources as saying that Russia might provide Syria with anti-aircraft missile systems in the near future.
They also come days after Lavrov said that last week’s joint missile attack by the U.S., the U.K. and France on Syria had removed any “moral obligation” Russia had to withhold the S-300 missile system from the Syrian government.
Citing Kommersant, Reuters said the delivery of the anti-aircraft missile system may anger Israel. An unidentified Russian diplomat told Reuters that Israel had asked Moscow to withhold the missile system from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
“Israel has made repeated efforts to persuade Moscow not to sell the system to Syria, as it fears this would hinder its aerial capabilities against arms shipments to Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah,” Reuters said.
- The Guardian: Syria: Western Nations Seek to Bypass Russian Veto at U.N.
- The Washington Post: Searching for a Good Approach to Syria
- Brookings: An Illusory Victory: Was ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria?
- NPR: With Failing Lungs, Survivor of Suspected Chemical Attack in Syria Tells Her Story
- The National Interest: Would Russia Really Sell to Syria the S-300 Air Defense System? (And Why It Might Not Matter)