Family dead in Syria regime shelling on IS-held district

A picture taken on April 21, 2018, shows smoke billowing from the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk during regime strikes targeting the Islamic State group
AFP

Beirut (AFP) – A family of three was killed late Saturday in a wave of regime shelling on a southern district of Syria’s capital held by the Islamic State group, a monitor said.

Syrian troops are waging an intense bombing campaign against Yarmuk, a Palestinian refugee camp on the edge of Damascus, and nearby districts that are held by IS.

A woman, her husband, and their child were killed in the Yarmuk shelling, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.

“This brings to nine the number of civilians killed since the shelling escalated on Thursday,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. 

The bombing and clashes continued into Sunday, Abdel Rahman said, with air strikes, artillery, and surface-to-surface missiles hitting the neighbourhood.

Yarmuk was once a densely-populated and thriving district of the capital, but it has been ravaged by violence since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011.

Syria’s government imposed a crippling siege on it in 2012, and fighting among rebels and rival jihadists has exhausted residents. 

In 2015, IS overran most of Yarmuk, and the small numbers of other rebels and jihadists, including from Al-Qaeda’s former affiliate, that had a presence there agreed to withdraw just a few weeks ago. 

Simultaneously, the Syrian army was finishing off the last rebel pockets in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus that had been the opposition’s main bastion near the capital. 

Securing Ghouta has allowed the regime to refocus on Yarmuk, but the escalating shelling has sparked worries among humanitarian organisations. 

The UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said it was “deeply concerned about the fate of civilians” and thousands of refugees in and around the camp.

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