Assad government declares Damascus fully under control

The Assad regime said it has managed to remove Islamic State forces from the southern section of Syria’s capital.

By: World Israel News Staff and AP

In another sign that the civil war that has ravaged Syria for the past seven years is nearing an end, Syria’s military on Monday captured an enclave in southern Damascus from the Islamic State.

The win followed a ruinous monthlong battle which has brought the entire capital and its far-flung suburbs under full government control for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

The gains freed President Bashar Assad’s forces to move with allied militiamen on remaining rebel-held territory in the south near the border with Israel as Syria’s chief ally Iran comes under growing pressure from the Trump administration to withdraw its troops from the country.

Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, have been instrumental in helping Assad’s over-stretched forces recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country’s center and north, building a military presence that has alarmed Israel and its US ally, which is now looking to constrain Iran’s activities.

Iranian officials have vowed to stay on in Syria for as long as needed, setting the stage for a potential confrontation. Meanwhile, Washington seeks to tighten the screws on Tehran following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal brokered between Iran and world powers under the leadership of the Obama administration.

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US, Russia and Israel pressure Iran to leave

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with the “strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran does not leave Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad at a meeting last week that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria. Putin’s envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said Putin was referring to Iranian forces, among others.

Israel has warned Iran and its proxies to stay away from the border and has carried out a series of airstrikes on Syrian air bases, where it believes Iranian troops maintain a presence. Earlier this month, it launched a blistering bombardment of Iranian positions in Syria after an alleged Iranian rocket barrage toward its positions on the Golan Heights.