The Syrian government stepped up its efforts yesterday to retake the opposition's last besieged enclaves, as rebels prepared to withdraw from one and a newspaper reported an ultimatum against another.
President Bashar al-Assad scored a major victory this month by retaking eastern Ghouta, the biggest rebel stronghold near Damascus, putting his forces in by far their strongest position since the early months of the seven-year-old civil war.
The United States, Britain and France launched a volley of air strikes on Saturday against three Syrian targets in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons strike during the Ghouta assault.
The Western intervention has had no measurable impact on the wider war, with rebels continuing to surrender under deals that allow them to withdraw to the opposition pocket in the northwest in return for abandoning territory.
State television showed live footage of buses entering the town of Dumayr, northeast of Damascus, to bring out fighters and their families, while soldiers stood by the roadside.
In the nearby enclave of Eastern Qalamoun rebels said they were also negotiating a withdrawal deal with Russia.
Separately, the pro-government al-Watan newspaper reported that Islamic State militants had been given 48 hours to agree to withdraw from an enclave centred around the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugee south of Damascus.
Meanwhile, IS group launched a surprise attack near a town in eastern Syria they had lost six months ago, killing at least 25 regime forces, a monitor said yesterday. At least 13 jihadists were also killed in the attack which IS carried out near Mayadeen on Wednesday.
And Iraq yesterday said its air force yesterday carried out a "deadly raid" against positions of the IS in Syria, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said.