Syrian government forces have begun bombarding Islamic State-held areas near Damascus, Syrian state media reported Thursday. Despite earlier reports saying Bashar Assad's regime reached a compromise with militants to evacuate peacefully, warplanes have reportedly been raining fire on Hajr al-Aswad neighborhood and the Yarmouk Palestinian camp.
Earlier on Thursday, the Damascus-based Palestinian official Khaled Abdelmajid said the government was giving hard-liners two days to leave Yarmouk and Hajr al-Aswad, leaving the government with control of the two neighborhoods.
Local opposition activist Sami Dreid, in the nearby Yalda neighborhood, said the militants were expected to relocate to IS-held territory in the east Syrian desert. Dreid said it was not clear why the deal appeared to have fallen through.
This accord was to set to join similar agreements reached with rebels, mainly Jaish al-Islam, who left the town of Douma for Idlib.
Douma was the site of a suspected chemical attack on April 7, in which 70 people were reported killed. The attack is being attributed to the Syrian government by several western nations. On April 14, A western coalition composed of the U.S., France and Britain bombarded military and research facilities belonging to the Assad regime in retaliation for the attack.
As of Thursday, investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have still not been able to reach the site of the attack to collect evidence. On April 17, A UN security team was sent to clear the terrain as safe for examination. Upon attempting to reach the sites, the team was fired upon and an explosive was detonated in their vicinity. They withdrew safely back to Damascus, with no current indication by the UN on when another team will be sent in.
Russian news agency RIA reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Syrian rebels were preventing OPCW inspectors from reaching the site.
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