DAMASCUS, May 20 (Xinhua) — The Islamic State (IS) militants and their families started evacuating their positions in southern Damascus towards the Syrian desert, activists said Sunday. However, state media outlets have denied the claims.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the IS militants and their families started evacuating the Hajar al-Aswad area and the nearby Yarmouk Camp in southern Damascus, under a “secret deal” between the IS group and the Syrian government, following month-long intense battles.
The observatory said, since Saturday afternoon, IS militants in the southern areas have been burning their positions in Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk Camp.
The watchdog group said the Syrian government could soon declare empty of IS militants in such areas.
Other activists also posted photos of buses waiting at the Batikha roundabout near Yarmouk Camp and they were said to be used for the evacuation.
But the state news agency SANA denied the reports of any deal of evacuation of IS militants from southern Damascus to the Syrian desert.
It maintained that the military operations in Hajar al-Aswad and nearby IS-held pockets are ongoing.
The IS has lost its major stronghold late last year, with the Syrian army capturing the Deir al-Zour city in eastern Syria as well as large swathes of the Syrian desert near Iraqi border. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces also stripped IS of its de facto capital of Raqqa north of Syria.