World News

Syrian army shells jihadist enclave near Damascus: pro-Assad commander

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian army started shelling a jihadist enclave south of Damascus on Tuesday in preparation for an operation to retake the area, a commander in a pro-Damascus regional military alliance said.

The commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the operation would target the Islamic State and the Nusra Front groups in Yarmouk Camp and the adjoining al-Hajar al-Aswad area.

The area is much smaller than the eastern Ghouta region that Syrian government forces recently recovered in a Russian-backed offensive. The commander said preparatory shelling of the jihadist enclave had started on Tuesday morning.

The government is also set to recover another rebel enclave south of Damascus around the town of Beit Sahm, the commander said, though this would happen through an agreement with the government by which fighters would leave for Idlib.

“The lists of militants who will go on the buses toward Idlib are being gathered,” the commander said.

Idlib is a rebel-held territory at the border with Turkey.

Reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Angus MacSwan