Militants given 48 hours to surrender enclave near Damascus — report

A file photo of the former rebel Syrian town of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus (AFP)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Militants given 48 hours to surrender enclave near Damascus — report

  • Syrian regime forces shelled the last pockets in Damascus controlled by the Daesh group, preparing the ground for a possible assault on the militants stronghold
  • The Syrian army and its allies have focused their efforts on securing Damascus lately

BEIRUT: Daesh militants have been given 48 hours to agree to withdraw from an enclave they control south of Damascus, the pro-Syrian government newspaper Al-Watan reported on Thursday.
“If they refuse, the army and supporting forces are ready to launch a military operation to end the presence of the organization in the area,” it said.
The militant-controlled enclave is centered around the Palestinian Yarmouk camp and the Al-Hajjar Al-Aswad area south of Damascus. The area is much smaller than the eastern Ghouta region where the Syrian government recently defeated insurgents.
A commander in the regional military alliance that backs the Syrian government said the Syrian army had begun shelling the militant enclave on Tuesday in preparation for an assault.
Yarmouk, some 8 km (5 miles) from the center of Damascus, was home to Syria’s largest Palestinian refugee community before the Syrian war erupted in 2011. Although most residents have fled, the United Nations has said several thousand remain.
The Syrian government has recovered swathes of territory from rebels by letting them leave to other rebel-held parts of the country after years of siege and ferocious military assaults backed by Russia and Iran.


Oman trying to reduce US-Iran tensions: foreign ministry tweet

Updated 7 min 56 sec ago
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Oman trying to reduce US-Iran tensions: foreign ministry tweet

  • ‘There is a danger that a war breaks out, hurting the whole world’
  • Tensions between the US and Iran have been building in the last few weeks

DUBAI: Oman is trying “with other parties” to reduce tensions between the United States and Iran, the Omani Foreign Ministry tweeted on Friday.

The tweet cited Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate’s minister responsible for foreign affairs, who met on Monday in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“There is a danger that a war breaks out, hurting the whole world ... Both parties, the American and the Iranian, are aware of the danger,” the tweet cited the Omani minister as saying in an interview with an Arabic publication.

Oman maintains friendly ties with both the United States and Iran and has previously been an important go-between for the two countries, which severed diplomatic relations in 1980. Washington and Tehran are in a protracted stand-off over Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Tensions have been building in the last few weeks. Washington has sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region since the United States reinstated a range of economic sanctions against Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that Iran will not surrender to US pressure and will not abandon its goals, even if it is bombed.

Another country trying to avert a confrontation in the region is Iraq. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday that Baghdad would send delegations to Washington and Tehran to help reduce tensions.