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Islamic State Makes Major Gains at Damascus Palestinian Refugee Camp

TEL AVIV – While the Syrian and Russian militaries have made major gains against the Islamic State in Syria, a battle has been playing itself out in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus that has seen IS take the lead at the strategic site.

AFP reported on Friday:

The Islamic State group has almost evicted rival Al-Qaeda jihadists from a Palestinian camp in southern Damascus after two weeks of clashes, a Palestinian official said on Friday.

“Daesh has chased Al-Nusra, its former ally in the Yarmuk camp, from 90 percent of the territory it controlled,” the Palestine Liberation Organisation chief in Damascus, Anwar Abdel Hadi, said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Fighting between IS and Al-Nusra over the past two weeks in the camp has also killed five civilians and wounded 20. Abdel Hadi said he did not have a toll for casualties among the fighters.

Once a thriving district that was home to some 160,000 Syrians and Palestinians, Yarmuk has been devastated since late 2012.

The Syrian army imposed a tight siege on the camp that reportedly led to deaths because of shortages of food and medicines.

Al-Nusra and IS had together controlled 70 percent of Yarmuk since April 2015, according to the PLO official.

Palestinian factions and pro-government forces — who control the rest of the camp — did not take part in the latest fighting.

The Palestinian official said some 6,000 civilians remain in Yarmuk alongside around 3,000 IS fighters there and in the nearby Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood. Al-Nusra has around 300.

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