Following Damascus Victory, Syrian Government to Target Rebel-held South

Push for southern areas could bring Assad-allied Iranian forces near the border with Israel

Syrian government forces pose for a photo in front of destroyed buildings at the entrance of the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk on the southern outskirts of Damascus on May 21, 2018.
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP

The Syrian government declared victory on Monday after pushing the remainder of the Islamic militants out of a south Damascus pocket.

Syrian troops and their allies are now expected to turn their attention to the opposition-held parts of southern Syria, including Daraa province, in a push that could bring allied Iranian forces even closer to the increasingly tense frontier with Israel. Idlib, in the north, remains a major rebel bastion, but government forces are expected to leave that confrontation to a later stage.

Syrian government forces drive past the rubble of destroyed buildings at the entrance of the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk on the southern outskirts of Damascus on May 21, 2018.
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP

Celebrations broke out on Tuesday as Syrian government forces raised their flag over the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus as state media promoted what it said was the "liberation" of the last quarters of the capital from rebels and Islamic State group militants. The army declared the Syrian capital "completely safe" from militants for the first time in nearly seven years, bringing the entire capital and its suburbs under full governmental control for the first time since 2011. 

Police officers and soldiers standing in formation in the rubble of the Hajr al-Aswad neighborhood chanted half-heartedly for the president in what has become a ritual of pageantry after every advance by the government against the crumbling opposition movement and separate IS insurgency.

But after the ceremony, the soldiers erupted in a cheer and let off bursts of automatic gunfire into the air. They promised the cameras they would be heading to Daraa, a city near the border with Israel, which was the first to revolt against Assad in the Arab Spring protests earlier this decade.
Daraa remains split between government and rebel control.