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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Syria police deploy in south Damascus after ISIS defeat

On Tuesday, police units entered Yarmouk and Al Hajar Al Aswad and planted the two-star Syrian flag there

Syrian soldiers sit in the rubble in the Al Hajar Al Aswad neighbourhood in south Damascus, Syria, on May 21, 2018. Youssef Badawi / EPA
Syrian soldiers sit in the rubble in the Al Hajar Al Aswad neighbourhood in south Damascus, Syria, on May 21, 2018. Youssef Badawi / EPA

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

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

On Tuesday, police units entered Yarmouk and Al 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 Yarmouk 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.

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It also showed footage from Al 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.

Yarmouk, Al 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 the Assad regime using a mix of military pressure and evacuation deals to flush rebels and extremists out of Damascus and its outskirts.

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

ISIS overran Yarmouk 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 Yarmouk from ISIS 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 ISIS fighters. The government has denied such a deal.