Daesh, al-Qaida silently battle over Yarmouk refugee camp

YUSUF SELMAN İNANÇ @yusufsinanc
Istanbul
Published

Daesh has lost most of its territories in Syria and Iraq after three-year-long struggles. Its strongholds in Raqqa, Syria, and in Mosul, Iraq, have been re-captured as the group has started retreating. However, its presence in the country's west, in the Yarmouk refugee camp, has not come to an end. On the contrary, the group has increased its efforts to impose its control all over the camp, battling with al-Qaida linked militants.

Local sources, speaking to the Anadolu Agency (AA), said Daesh controlled as much as 75 percent of the camp, which is densely populated with at least 5,000 Palestinians. "Since Feb. 14, Daesh terrorists carried out two separate attacks in areas in the camp under the control of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, an armed anti-regime group. After the attacks, carried out by bomb-laden vehicles in Haifa and Raja squares, Daesh took control of a Palestinian hospital and nearby areas. This reduced areas under Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham control to around 15 percent. Since the attacks, Daesh now controls 75 percent of Camp Yarmouk, which has around 5,000 civilians living in it," the AA report said. Similarly, Al Masdar News reported that Daesh was preparing to make a final push to capture control of the whole camp.

"At the present time, Daesh militants are targeting Ha'yat Tahrir al-Sham defenses in Ar-Rija Square. Ar-Rija Square is described by sources as the last defensible location and final stronghold of Ha'yat Tahrir al-Sham in the remaining areas of Yarmouk Camp still controlled by the al-Qaida-linked faction. The new push by Daesh follows the capture of Yarmouk Camp town's Halfa, Al-Malyoun and Al-Mashrou' neighborhoods during the past several days by urban warfare standards in Damascus city, a blitz advance," the paper wrote yesterday.

Yarmouk, an unofficial refugee camp, is a district of Syria's capital, Damascus, and was established in 1957 when thousands of Palestinians were displaced by Israel. The camp has become one of the strongholds of the pro-Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the last few decades and has therefore established better relations with the Syrian regime. After the clashes started in 2011, camp residents, suffering from poverty, were subjected to fierce battles between groups loyal to the regime and opposition groups.

The besieged Yarmouk camp is located on the outskirts of Damascus, home to the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria. Before the Syrian war erupted in 2011, it accommodated more than 180,000 Palestinian refugees. However, due to severe security conditions, around 140,000 refugees have been internally displaced as a result of the war. Recent reports by the U.N. state that 5,000 civilians remain trapped in the camp, suffering from desperate humanitarian conditions without access to basics.

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