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Syria offers Palestinians firepower in Yarmouk battle against ISIL

If achieved, this rapprochement would be significant for Yarmouk, which had seen fierce clashes since the end of 2012 between regime forces and rebels supported by Palestinian groups.
A man stands on a staircase inside a demolished building in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus on April 6, 2015. Around 2,000 people have been evacuated from the camp after ISIL seized large parts of it. Youssef Karwashan/AFP Photo
A man stands on a staircase inside a demolished building in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus on April 6, 2015. Around 2,000 people have been evacuated from the camp after ISIL seized large parts of it. Youssef Karwashan/AFP Photo

DAMASCUS // Syria said on Tuesday it is ready to offer Palestinians its firepower to support their battle with the ISIL group in a refugee camp devastated by clashes and aerial attacks.

The deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Yarmouk camp pushed the UN Security Council to demand greater access to residents trapped between the encroaching ISIL militants and besieging government forces.

The fierce clashes that began on April 1 have ceased, but regime forces continue to drop barrel bombs on the camp, which lies six kilometres from central Damascus.

In the capital, deputy foreign minister Faisal Meqdad met with a delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organisation headed by Ahmad Majdalani.

“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 ISIL out of the camp,” said PLO official Anwar Abdul Hadi, who was at the meetings.

“Syria and the PLO are determined to fight terrorism, which has reached Palestinian camps in Syria, notably Yarmouk,” Mr Meqdad said.

After the meeting, Mr Majdalani said both sides had “agreed on the need for a unified position for the Palestinian forces in Syria, in coordination with the Syrian government”.

He said there would be continued cooperation between Syrian and Palestinian leaders “to defeat terrorism in Yarmouk”.

A meeting among Syria’s Palestinian factions is set for Wednesday to discuss a broader consensus.

If achieved, this rapprochement would be significant for Yarmouk, which had seen fierce clashes since the end of 2012 between regime forces and rebels supported by Palestinian groups.

Most of the Palestinian factions in Yarmouk are opposed to the regime of president Bashar Al Assad.

But ISIL’s arrival to Yarmouk sounded alarm bells in Damascus, as it was the closest militants had ever been to the capital.

Camp residents described a disastrous humanitarian situation.

“I used to call the camp a big prison... Now, it’s different, it’s even worse,” Samer said via Skype from inside the camp.

“There was a young man who was killed next to my house by barrel bombs. We picked him up in pieces.”

Most of the camp’s doctors had already fled, leaving only paramedics to care for the wounded – but those still in Yarmouk were stranded.

“People don’t know where to go even if they were able to leave,” Samer said.

ISIL began an assault on Yarmouk last Wednesday and was initially repelled by Palestinian fighters but has since seized large swathes of the district.

“I left the camp despite myself. I had stayed on despite the bombings and famine,” said Um Usama, 40, who lived in Yarmouk for 17 years but is now sheltered in a school.

ISIL’s arrival forced her out.

“Their behaviour is not human and their religion is not ours,” said the thin woman with sunken eyes.

* Agence France-Presse

Updated: April 7, 2015 04:00 AM

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