Syrian army troop reinforcements are moving up to more front lines in the suburbs of Damascus for another battle which could prove to be a carbon copy of the Douma siege.
Just as some fighters accepted Russian military mediation to leave Eastern Ghouta two weeks ago, while others stalled and held out to the end – when footage of gassed civilians went around the world and led to last week’s Anglo-American and French air strikes in Syria – Russian and Syrian government negotiations to end the battles for the Yarmouk Camp have largely succeeded.
But in an area on the edge of the old Palestinian camp district called al-Qadam, where civilians are still living, Isis and other jihadis are refusing to depart; so fresh Syrian troops and Palestinian militias from the ‘Al Quds’ Brigade are being sent to the suburb in preparation for a final battle if the talks drag on. Donald Trump’s triumphal claim at the weekend to have taught Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a lesson will look more than ironic if yet more images of choking civilians then appear on tape.
Explosions from the area were thundering across Damascus on Sunday when state radio reported that seven mortar shells fell onto government-held areas, killing one civilian and wounding nine others. But what makes this particular battleground so perilous is the anger caused by a massacre – one so dreadful that the Syrian authorities did not reveal it – when 120 Syrian soldiers were executed during a truce agreement arranged with Isis-allied gunmen almost three weeks ago. The mass killings occurred on 27 March after 500 Syrian troops entered a ceasefire line at al-Qadam which they believed to be safe. Surrounded, many of the Syrians escaped, but 116 of them were captured.
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