IS loses ground in Syria’s Yarmuk camp: Palestinian sources

isisJihadists from the Islamic State group have lost ground to Palestinian fighters in Syria’s Yarmuk camp, Palestinian officials and a resident said on Tuesday.

IS fighters have retreated from much of the territory they seized in the camp in southern Damascus after entering it on April 1, a resident using the pseudonym Samer told AFP.

“We haven’t even seen any Daesh members in over three days,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The withdrawal was confirmed by an official from a pro-Syrian regime Palestinian faction fighting against IS inside the camp.

“There are intermittent but ongoing clashes between Palestinian factions and IS,” said Khaled Abdel Majid, head of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, adding that IS had withdrawn from most of the neighbourhoods it previously controlled.

IS fighters were now confined largely to the southwest of the camp, with Palestinian factions — both pro- and anti-Syrian regime — controlling most of the east and north of the camp, Palestinian sources said.

Syrian regime forces are stationed outside the camp and have maintained a tight siege around it, but Abdel Majid said the Palestinian factions had established a “joint operations room” with government forces.

A Syrian security source in Damascus also said “the Palestinian factions have made progress and were able to recapture key points… and the operation is ongoing.”

The Palestinian forces inside the camp include the Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis group that is opposed to the regime and has fought alongside Syrian rebels.

Fighters from the Palestinian Fatah and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine groups are not participating, Palestinian officials said.

Both groups have said they want Yarmuk to remain neutral and do not want to be seen as taking a side in the conflict between Syria’s government and opposition forces.

IS’s advance rattled residents and the Syrian government, with the country’s reconciliation minister saying a military operation would be necessary to expel the jihadists.

The extremist group’s entrance into Yarmuk plunged the district into further hardship, exacerbating already-dire conditions caused by a government siege lasting more than 18 months.

Once home to some 160,000 Palestinian and some Syrian residents, Yarmuk’s population had shrunk to just 18,000 by the time IS entered the camp.

According to Palestinian sources, some 2,500 civilians have managed to escape the camp, but aid agencies and the United Nations have warned of a serious humanitarian crisis and urged all parties to allow the creation of a humanitarian corridor.

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