Syrian government forces pounded rebel positions near Damascus

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Smoke rises from Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus, Syria April 21, 2018. (REUTERS/Ali Hashisho)

Syrian government forces pounded ISIL-held districts near southern Damascus. Warplanes, helicopters, and artillery were used in the bid to enforce an evacuation deal. CGTN’s Alaa Ebrahim is in Damascus with more.

Calm prevailed over Damascus after the Syrian Army halted its military offensive south of the capital on Sunday afternoon local time. The Syrian Army pounded rebel positions in three districts south of the capital. Yarmouk, Hajar Al-Aswad and Kaddam are the last strongholds for insurgents in Damascus.

Earlier in the week, state television reported that the army won’t stop its operation until militants comply with the terms of a deal struck to evacuate. It is expected that rebel fighters will start leaving the southern districts of the capital soon.

The three neighborhoods are controlled by ISIL and Al-Qaeda affiliated fighters, as well as other smaller rebel factions. It remained unclear where the ISIL fighters will go since the group had little area left under its control across Syria.

It’s expected that the evacuation of those fighters will be the last in a series of rebel evacuations out of their former strongholds.

On Saturday alone 35 buses carried the last batch of rebel fighters and their families out of Ruhaiba, Jayroud, and al-Nasriya towns, heading north. The rebels had been steadily losing ground around the capital over the past two months.

Meanwhile, for the investigation taking place in and around Douma, sources in the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CGTN that the OPCW inquiry into the alleged use of chemical weapons there continued.

Inspectors from the international watchdog group were finally able to start their work in earnest on Saturday, collecting samples from the scene of the attack that took place on April 7, 2018. Sources told CGTN that inspectors had interviewed some of those injured as well as doctors who responded to the scene.