UK media is reporting that Islamic State fighters have entered the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, located outside of Damascus and known in the past yo have been controlled by Hamas and other “Palestinian factions” such as Hezbollah. According to the report:
Islamic State (IS) militants have entered the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Damascus, activists and Palestinian officials say.
Clashes erupted between the militants and groups inside the camp, with IS seizing control of large parts of the camp, reports said.
The UN says about 18,000 Palestinian refugees are inside the camp. IS militants have seized large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq.
But this is the group’s first major attack near the heart of the Syrian capital.
IS fighters had seized control of large parts of the camp, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and an official with the Palestine Liberation Organisation based in Damascus, said.
Yarmouk residents told BBC Arabic that members of Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, a group formed by Palestinian militiamen opposed to the Syrian government, were leading the fight against the IS militants, along with some Free Syrian Army fighters.
Palestinian militiamen were able to retake some areas from IS later on Wednesday, residents told the BBC. There has been no official statement from IS about the attack. ”
Read the rest here.
The Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp is located outside Damascus and has been the scene of heavy fighting involving various factions in the Syrian civil war. A December 2012 BBC profile explained how Yarmouk became a Hamas center in Syria:
In addition to banishing the PLO’s leadership, the Syrian government came to see Yarmouk as an opposition stronghold and also arrested thousands of Arafat supporters. Afterwards, residents began to concentrate on commercial, rather than political and military activities. This resulted in Yarmouk becoming a centre of commerce in Damascus, and today tens of thousands of Syrians live and work there. With the PLO’s relations with the Syrian government strained, the Palestinian Islamist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad sought to fill the political power vacuum in Yarmouk. Leaders from both groups moved in and recruited scores of youths to their causes. Hamas’s political leader Khaled Meshaal lived in Yarmouk until he refused to endorse President Bashar al-Assad’s handling of the uprising against his rule. Once the Hamas Political Bureau had relocated to Egypt and Qatar in early 2012, they declared their wholehearted support of the Syrian opposition.
Other GMBDW reporting on the Yarmouk camp has included:
- The GMBDW reported in November 2013 on the Winter aid convoy to the Yarmouk Camp scheduled at that time for launch by the European Al-Wafaa campaign, an organization close to the Hamas infrastructure in Europe.
- In January 2014, the GMBDW reported that the UK Muslim Brotherhood had launched what was described as an unprecedented initiative to aid Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp
- In February 2014, we reported that Hamas had remained contact with Hezbollah over issues relating to the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and that Hamas and other unnamed “Palestinian factions” would be temporarily in charge of security at the Yarmouk camp.
- In April 2014, we reported that the 8th convoy of the European Al-Wafaa Campaign had entered Yarmouk.