April 6, 2015
By Brent Eng and Moatassim Jamal
AMMAN: Islamic State fighters continued to battle with Palestinian militias defending Yarmouk camp on Monday even as it appears that IS has all but won control of the beleaguered Palestinian refugee camp.
“Daesh [IS] now controls 95 percent of the Camp,” Abu Matar, the pseudonym of an activist in Yarmouk, told Syria Direct on Monday, using a pejorative name for IS.
“IS controls the camp completely, while Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis [a Palestinian militia] no longer has a presence in the camp after withdrawing from its positions to the fringes of the camp,” Abu Marem al-Jolani, the alias of another citizen journalist in the camp, told Syria Direct Monday.
Meanwhile, the London-based daily Addustour reported that IS was using civilians as human shields on Monday, although Syria Direct could not confirm the claim.
Yarmouk residents flee the camp over the weekend. Photo courtesy of Yarmouk camp.
Monday’s fighting comes in the wake of the regime’s bombing of the camp with at least seven barrel bombs on Sunday, a Yarmouk resident told Syria Direct.
“Over a period of 90 minutes we heard seven barrel bombs explode in the camp,” said the resident, who asked to remain anonymous.
“There is only one [bomb] shelter for civilians and it is small and unprepared,” he added.
The pro-opposition local news source Yarmouk Camp Offline confirmed Sunday’s barrel bombings, saying that at least six had hit the camp that night.
The bombings took place amidst IS’s block-by-block takeover of the Palestinian refugee camp on Saturday and Sunday, according to a video showing IS fighters celebrating in the camp.
For its part, official state news agency SANA reported that regime forces, in cooperation with pro-regime Palestinian fighters, helped nearly 1,000 Yarmouk residents escape the camp over the weekend.
Approximately 18,000 residents still remain in the camp, according to UNRWA estimates.
Yarmouk camp, once home to more than 100,000 Palestinian refugees and Syrians, has been completely encircled by regime forces for two years.
IS invaded Yarmouk Camp last Wednesday after entering the camp by way of Jabhat a-Nusra checkpoints. Palestinian officials, opposition activists and Syrian state news all say that IS entered Yarmouk last Wednesday with Nusra's cooperation.
The Islamist group was initially pushed back by Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, the largest Palestinian militia group in the camp, before taking control of it over the weekend.
Jabhat a-Nusra claims to have remained neutral throughout last week’s fighting in a statement issued on its official Twitter account Sunday, despite widespread accusations by pro-regime and pro-opposition supporters that it coordinated with IS during the attack.