IS seizes most of Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus

IS seizes most of Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus
Islamic State group fighters seize control of a large part of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus, as Jordan closes its border due to clashes.
2 min read
01 April, 2015
The Palestinian refugee camp has been under government siege for nearly two years [Anadolu/Getty]

Islamic State group militants infiltrated a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus on Wednesday, marking the deepest foray yet by the group into the capital, Syrian opposition activists and Palestinian officials said.

The fighters, who control large swathes of territory in northern Syria, entered the Yarmouk camp from the Hajar Aswad neighbourhood in southern Damascus and fought with a Palestinian group inside the camp.

The London-based opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS took control of large parts of the camp, adding that if full control was gained, the group could potentially "threaten the heart of the capital."

Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus, has been under government siege for nearly two years.

UN aid workers have been sending food parcels into the camp, where thousands of civilians remain trapped and in desperate need of food and medicine.

     If full control of the camp is gained, IS can potentially threaten the heart of the capital

The camp had witnessed fighting in the past between government forces and militants who control much of the camp.

The Observatory, which relies on a vast network of contacts inside Syria, reported heavy clashes in the camp between IS fighters and members of the Palestinian faction named Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.

Anwar Raja, the spokesman for the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, said that Wednesday's push into the camp came in coordination between IS and their rivals in the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's franchise in Syria.

"The Nusra Front opened the road for them in order to infiltrate the camp and several hours ago they entered Yarmouk," Raja said by telephone. It was not immediately clear why Nusra would facilitate the entry of IS into the camp.

A Syrian foreign ministry statement on Wednesday said it held Jordanian authorities responsible for "obstructing the movement of trucks and passengers and any ensuing economic or social repercussions".

Jordan closed its only functioning border crossing with Syria following the clashes.

"It is important for us to keep the safety of the passengers and those who are trying to cross between the two countries," Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said. "So we decided to close the border temporarily, until things calm down. Then we will open it again."

A spokesman for rebels in southern Syria, Issam al-Rayess, confirmed that rebel fighters were trying to take control of the border crossing from Syrian authorities.

The Nasib crossing is the only functioning crossing between Jordan and Syria and is considered a crucial gateway for Syria's government and for Syrian, Lebanese and Jordanian traders and merchants.