The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) says it has seized more territory inside the Syrian capital Damascus, bringing the jihadist group closer to dictator Bashar al-Assad’s seat of power.
ISIS’s advance has driven the Assad regime to form what appears to be an unlikely alliance with Palestinians in Damascus, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The article notes that fierce clashes have broken out between pro-Assad regime groups and rebels supported by Palestinian factions since the end of 2012.
ISIS has seized the massive al-Yarmuok Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital, where it beheaded several people, reports the Vocativ news website.
Many Palestinians in the camp are reportedly opposed to the Syrian government. However, the two sides consider ISIS to be a common enemy.
Reportedly, ISIS’s arrival to Yarmuok is the closest the jihadist group has ever been to Damascus, home to Assad’s presidential palace and many Palestinians.
On Tuesday, ISIS announced that it had seized a new area, Yalda, a suburb in Damascus east of Yarmuok and a few miles away from Assad’s presidential palace, reports Vocativ.
That same day, the Assad regime offered to provide military support to Palestinians combating ISIS in the Yarmuok refugee camp.
“The possible control of Yalda, along with Yarmuok and ISIS’s significant presence in Hajar Al-Aswad, another suburb, could create a strategic control strip south of Damascus,” notes the Vocative news outlet. “The militant group, which is trying to topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, appears to be only about five miles away from his presidential palace.”
Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Meqdad, met with a delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Damascus, according to AFP.
“With the exception of a direct armed intervention, Syrian authorities are ready to support the Palestinian fighters in a number of ways, including militarily, to push [ISIS] out of the camp,” reportedly said PLO official Anwar Abdul Hadi, who attended the meetings.
“Syria and the PLO are determined to fight terrorism, which has reached Palestinian camps in Syria, notably Yarmouk,” said Meqdad, the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reports.
After the meeting, PLO delegation leader, Ahmad Majdalani, told AFP that both parties had “agreed on the need for a unified position for the Palestinian forces in Syria, in coordination with the Syrian government,” adding that Syrian and Palestinian leaders would continue to cooperate “to defeat terrorism in Yarmouk.”
Despite losing territory in recent weeks, ISIS still controls large swaths of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.
ISIS published pictures showing Palestinian refugees in Damascus who had been beheaded.
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