Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants battled Syrian rebel forces in a Damascus neighbourhood on Monday, bringing the jihadists closer than ever to the centre of the capital, a monitoring group said.

ISIS militants fought street battles against Islamist rebels in Asali, part of the capital’s southern Qadam district, after seizing two streets there over the weekend, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“This is the closest ISIS has ever been to the heart of Damascus,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

He said the jihadists had advanced from the adjacent al-Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood, where they have been based since July 2014.

A Syrian military official confirmed the clashes and said he was “very happy that they are fighting.”

“But we are ready to react if they try to advance into government-held territory,” the official told AFP.

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