Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 February 2020

PLO rejects ‘being drawn’ into Syrian military action in Yarmouk

A PLO statement released late on Thursday contradicts earlier comments made by one of the organisation's senior members, which gave support to a Damascus offensive in the refugee camp
In this photo from February 4, 2014, Yarmouk residents wait at the gate of the camp to receive aid supplies from the United Nations. SANA, File/AP Photo
In this photo from February 4, 2014, Yarmouk residents wait at the gate of the camp to receive aid supplies from the United Nations. SANA, File/AP Photo

DAMASCUS // The Palestine Liberation Organisation has said it refuses to be drawn into military action in an embattled Palestinian refugee camp in Syria that has been overrun by ISIL, backing away from earlier comments by one of is senior members.

ISIL militants have seized almost all of the Yarmouk refugee camp – which lies on the outskirts of the capital Damascus – in recent days, brushing aside local militia opposed to president Bashar Al Assad.

“We refuse to be drawn into any armed campaign, whatever its nature or cover, and we call for resorting to other means to spare the blood of our people and prevent more destruction and displacement for our people of the camp,” the PLO said in a statement on Thursday, issued from Ramallah.

Earlier in the day, Ahmad Majdalani, who was sent to Damascus by the PLO leadership to discuss the Yarmouk crisis with the Syrian government, said he fully endorsed a Syrian military offensive to regain control of the camp.

Mr Majdalani blamed hardliners controlling the camp of exploiting the plight of Palestinians to their own ends.

“They have tried to use the camp as a launching pad to expand their scope of clashes and their terror activities inside and outside the camp,” said Mr Majdalani, a former minister in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Mr Majdalani said the Syrian army, working alongside local Palestinian groups, had so far secured 35 per cent of Yarmouk.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict from Britain, had previously said that ISIL controlled 90 per cent of the camp after defeating fighters mainly from Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis, a Syrian and Palestinian militia opposed to Assad.

Before the Syrian conflict began in 2011, the sprawling camp was home to some 160,000 Palestinians, refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their descendants.

On Thursday, however, Mr Majdalani said there were now just 17,500 residents left in Yarmouk, with around 2,000 having been evacuated since the latest round of fighting.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that Yarmouk was “beginning to resemble a death camp” for its residents, describing it as “the deepest circle of hell” in Syria’s four-year conflict.

* Reuters

Updated: April 10, 2015 04:00 AM

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