Heavy fighting erupts in Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp

2015-04-07 13:09
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Beirut - Fresh fighting was taking place on Tuesday in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, on the southern outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus, with those fleeing battles with the Islamic State (ISIS) militia reporting a dire humanitarian situation.

Refugees said they had run out of food and water before taking the risky decision to flee under heavy fire.

"The fighting is intensifying day by day," Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told dpa.

"We did not sleep because of the bombs," said 12-year-old Rasha, who cowered for days with her sister and two brothers under heavy bombardment, before reaching Damascus.

"We could not sleep because we thought the bombs would fall on us."

ISIS has been making advances inside the camp, quickly seizing large, but mostly deserted, areas. Palestinian groups charge that al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's wing in Syria, is aiding the rival extremist group.

Highly inaccurate bombs

Syrian government forces are also launching attacks at the camp, with observers accusing them of using highly inaccurate barrel bombs, and shells.

Both pro- and anti-Syrian government Palestinian factions are taking part in the fighting to push back ISIS, which has reportedly carried out beheadings and kidnappings as it moved northward into the camp.

"We were evacuated under the shelling. We stayed, me and my five children, eating small pieces of bread and some oil, because we had run out of water and food," Um Ahmad, a Palestinian refugee who left the camp said.

At least 2 000 Palestinians have fled the camp in recent days, according to Anwar Raja, a spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), which is allied to the Syrian government.

"Most of those evacuated from the camp were being hosted in government shelters," Raja told dpa by phone from Damascus.

Humanitarian aid

The UN said over the weekend that the camp had a population of about 18 000, including 3 500 children, who had remained inside Yarmouk when the latest fighting broke out.

More than 150 000 Palestinians lived in the camp before the Syrian civil war began in 2011. The camp was mainly under a siege by the government from 2013, after rebel factions gained a foothold in the area, which is strategically located on the edge of Damascus.

An agreement with the Syrian government and rebels inside the camp last year eased the siege and some UN agencies and the Red Cross were granted limited access to bring in humanitarian aid.

Raja, from the PFLP-GC, called for Palestinian unity against ISIS and said a delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation was set to arrive in Damascus for talks.

Palestinian groups said there was a severe lack of medicine and basic humanitarian supplies in the camp and those who had fled the fighting to government-held areas were also facing serious shortages.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  isis  |  palestine  |  syria  |  security  |  syria conflict

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