2 min read  | Damascus, Interviews, Politics

Islamic State ‘aims to take complete control of south Damascus’


September 9, 2015

The Islamic State has surrounded the rebel-controlled south Damascus neighborhood of al-Qadam from neighboring al-Asaali since beginning an assault on the district in late August.

The blockade has completely cut off the district from adjacent towns as IS looks to consolidate its presence south of the capital.

Now, the Islamic State is able to move around south Damascus “with total ease,” Walid al-Agha, a journalist in the nearby south Damascus town of Babila, tells Mohammed al-Haj Ali.,

“Before, when it was only in al-Hajjar al-Aswad, IS was quasi-encircled” in south Damascus, Agha says.

Q: When did the blockade begin, and is it a complete blockade or are there loopholes?

IS has imposed a blockade on [al-Qadam] since the beginning of its aggression against Ajnad a-Sham, the rebel faction in the district, on August 28.

It is a total blockade on al-Qadam from the northeast and southeast. All other directions are fronts with the regime.

IS prevents all food, fuel and medicine from entering the district, but allows civilians to enter and exit the area. Residents are depending on their previous food stores.

Q: Why is IS targeting al-Qadam now?

IS aims to take complete control of south Damascus and to strike and eliminate all the revolutionary factions there.

IS expanded into Yarmouk camp and a number of factions in the al-Asaali district swore allegiance to them months ago, Ajnad a-Sham therefore became encircled and IS supposed it would be easy to eliminate them and take control of al-Qadam.

Q: Has IS taken control of new areas in south Damascus recently?

Lately, IS has been expanding in south Damascus. Its main presence remains in al-Hajjar al-Aswad, but it is able to move about. Its security apparatuses and members are able to move around in the Yarmouk and Palestine camps and a-Tadamon and al-Asaali districts with total ease. Before, when it was only in al-Hajjar al-Aswad, IS was quasi-encircled [in south Damascus].

It does not control [these neighborhoods] in absolute terms, and they do not directly follow IS, but IS has the last word in all the areas.

Q: What about the truce between the Syrian regime and al-Qadam? Local residents indicate that the Syrian regime has blockaded al-Qadam for some time.

The truce stands, but the regime has blockaded [al-Qadam] just as it blockades the rest of south Damascus.

The only road to bring in assistance from Damascus to al-Qadam runs through al-Asaali, which is currently under IS control. Therefore, al-Qadam does not benefit whatsoever from the standing truce.

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