Palestinians fighting IS advance in Syria refugee camp

Palestinians fighting IS advance in Syria refugee camp
Islamic State fighters have largely withdrawn from Yarmouk, a refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus after expelling their main rival, several residents and a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.
2 min read
15 April, 2015
The camp was home to some 160,000 Palestinians before 2011. [AFP/GETTY]

Damascus-based Palestinian official Khaled Abdul-Majid said Wednesday that Palestinian factions have forced IS fighters to retreat from some positions in Yarmouk camp. 

Sami Hamzawi, a Palestinian activist from the camp who currently lives outside Syria, says the Hamas-affiliated Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis group has captured several buildings and is currently advancing from areas it holds northeast of Yarmouk.  

Hamzawi says he is in regular contact with camp residents.

Islamic State fighters overran much of Yarmouk earlier this month, establishing a foothold in Damascus for the first time, only a few kilometers from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's seat of power. 

The advance by Palestinians leaves al Qaeda-linked el-Nusra as the main group inside the camp.   

The withdrawal leaves al-Qaeda offshoot al Nusra as the biggest force in the camp, many of whose residents have fled since Islamic State launched its offensive. 

The Palestine Liberation Organisation envoy to Damascus said that Nusra was now the main group in the camp. 

They and Nusra are one. They are changing positions," Anwar Abdul Hadi told Reuters.  

Nusra was accused by its rivals of facilitating the entry of Islamic State militants into the camp. Although they are rivals elsewhere in Syria, both share a loathing for Aknaf al Maqdis. 

But Nusra, unlike Islamic State, was not ready to push its rivalry to a military confrontation and did not engage in the latest round of fighting in Yarmouk, according to residents. 

The camp was home to some 160,000 Palestinians before the Syrian conflict began in 2011.