First Published: 2015-04-01

ISIS captures Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus
ISIS militants capture 'majority' of Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus, engage armed Palestinian groups as they move closer to the seat of the Assad regime.
Middle East Online

BEIRUT – On Wednesday militants from the Islamic State jihadist group seized control of most of the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus, a local Palestinian official told AFP.

"Fighters from IS launched an assault this morning on Yarmuk and they took over the majority of the camp," said Anwar Abdel Hadi, director of political affairs for the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Damascus, claiming that fighting in the camp was continuing through pockets of resistance among Palestinian militants. Syrian activists and a Lebanon-based TV station reported that, after entering from Hajar Aswad (the southern Damascene neighbourhood completely controlled by armed rebels) IS militants engaged in combat with Palestinian groups within the camp – who are also opposed to Bashar al-Assad’s regime - in an attempt to secure its capture. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, confirmed that IS now controls a "large part" of the camp after clashes broke out with members of the Palestinian faction Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.

Yarmuk was once a thriving neighbourhood home to 160,000 Palestinian refugees and Syrians but has been caught up in the country's fighting and besieged by regime forces for more than a year. Only about 18,000 residents are estimated to remain in the camp since many have fled after months of being caught between government forces and Syrian insurgents including al Qaeda's Nusra Front. The siege has caused significant shortages of food, water and drugs inside the camp.

Syrian rebels had withdrawn from the camp in February 2014 under a deal that left only Palestinian anti-regime groups inside. IS, which has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, has fought not only against the Assad regime but also against other rebel groups as it seeks to expand the territory under its control.

This marks the deepest infiltration yet by IS militants into Damascus, which has remained a fortress for the Assad regime. Their capture of the Yarmouk camp places them in a better position to challenge President Bashar Assad’s stranglehold of Syria and threaten his seat of power.


Abadi, Sadr meet in Jordan

Opposition calls on Iraqi Kurd leader to step down

UN ends Libya talks with no progress made

Tillerson pushes to undercut Iran at landmark Saudi, Iraq meeting

Greening the Camps brings food and hope to refugees

Israel police arrest 15 over anti Jewish-Arab dating campaign

No clear US strategy in Syria after Raqqa liberation

Gulf share values plummet

US-backed forces capture key Syria oil field

More than half of Austrians vote for anti-immigration party

Washington sees potential Hezbollah threat in the US

Cairo killing sparks security concerns among Copts

Iraq PM arrives in Saudi to upgrade ties

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation