https://southfront.org/syrian-war-report-april-23-2018-militant-held-pockets-crumbling-in-western-syria/

Syrian government forces are developing an advance against ISIS in the Yarmouk refugee camp area in southern Damascus. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have liberated the al-Mujahedeen mosque reaching the Taqadom district and captured a major part of the Zain district.

This area is the last militant-held pocket near Damascus. If it’s liberated, the Syrian capital will be fully secured.

According to pro-government sources, the sides are still negotiating on a possible deal that would allow ISIS members to withdraw to the Homs desert. However, the deal has not been reached yet. So, government forces are developing their military operation in the area.

Damascus and the local negotiations committee of the Rastan pocket have once again failed to reach a reconciliation agreement. Pro-government sources say that little success of the recent SAA advance in the area was one of the reasons behind the local negotiations committee’s decision to not go forward with the deal.

On April 22, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies shelled the villages of Ghawr al-Assi and Qubaybat to show their unwillingness to accept any kind of the deal.

On the same day, ISIS ambushed an SAA unit west of the city of al-Mayadeen in the province of Deir Ezzor. According to the ISIS-linked news agency Amaq, ISIS members destroyed a bulldozer, an ammo truck and a battle tank of the SAA.

In March, the SAA and other pro-government factions conducted a limited security operation in the desert near al-Mayadin. However, this was not enough to re—establish security in the area. A number of ISIS units still operate in the Homs desert. They are capable of conducting hit and run attacks on government positions in the provinces of Homs and Deir Ezzor. According to local security sources, ISIS cells are even plotting terrorist attacks in urban areas.

ISIS’ self-proclaimed Caliphate was defeated. However, it is still a dangerous terrorist group, which keeps a large presence in the Syrian-Iraqi border area and has a large number of cells across the region.

The Iraqi government also understands the threat. On April 19, the Iraqi Air Force carried out airstrikes against ISIS in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. The strikes were coordinated with the Syrian government. The Iraqi government said that more strikes will come if needed. A joint Iraqi-Syrian-Iranian-Russian intelligence-sharing center operates in Baghdad.

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