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article imageSyria police deploy in south Damascus after IS defeat

By AFP     May 22, 2018 in World

Syrian police deployed across devastated districts in southern Damascus on Tuesday, according to state media, a day after the government captured the area from the Islamic State group.

The government on Monday seized the Yarmuk Palestinian camp and adjacent neighbourhoods of Tadamun and Hajar al-Aswad, putting Damascus fully under its control for the first time since 2012.

On Tuesday, police units entered Yarmuk and Hajar al-Aswad and planted the two-star Syrian flag there, state television reported.

It broadcast images of security forces atop a pockmarked multi-storey building in Yarmuk where they had hung the national flag.

They had also plastered pictures of President Bashar al-Assad and his predecessor and father Hafez.

Other police officers gathered in the ravaged streets below and fired in the air in celebration.

"The police are present round-the-clock," said one officer interviewed on the state broadcaster.

"Special units are deployed across the camp to help any civilians and protect their belongings," he said.

It also showed footage from Hajar al-Aswad of a convoy of police cars and motorcycles making its way through dusty streets lined with crumbling buildings.

There were no civilians in sight.

Yarmuk, Hajar al-Aswad and the nearby district of Tadamun all lie in a southern pocket of Damascus that had escaped regime control for several years.

The government began losing its grip on parts of the capital in 2012, just one year after the conflict in Syria erupted.

But it has made a comeback this year, with Assad using a mix of military pressure and evacuation deals to flush rebels and jihadists out of Damascus and its outskirts.

His troops and allied Palestinian fighters turned their sights on Yarmuk and the other IS-held parts of the capital last month.

IS overran Yarmuk in 2015, but the massive Palestinian camp had already been ravaged by years of rebel infighting and government attacks.

Syria's army announced it had seized Yarmuk from IS on Monday.

Several sources, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a military source close to Damascus, said the capture came after a negotiated withdrawal of IS fighters. The government has denied such a deal.

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