Syrian regime troops yesterday tightened the noose around a major Palestinian refugee camp held by Daesh militants in southern Damascus where hundreds of civilians face an uncertain future, regime media, witnesses and residents said.
Nearly two weeks into a campaign to capture the last area near the capital outside regime control that has left many parts of the once teeming Yarmouk camp in ruins, regime media announced Al Qadm neighbourhood next to the camp was retaken.
Opposition sources said the regime was now engaged in fierce fighting with militants on the outskirts of Yarmouk camp where an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 militants are now encircled. The militants who are besieged in an ever shrinking area have repelled successive raids to enter their heavily defended stronghold.
The Yarmouk campaign is part of a wider-Russian backed offensive to regain the last pocket in opposition hands around the capital after retaking eastern Ghouta this month.
It has shown no sign of letting up since Western countries launched air strikes on April 14 to punish the regime for a suspected poison gas attack.
The fate of hundreds of Palestinians, mostly sick and elderly women and children still in the camp that was once the largest in Syria is uncertain. UNRWA, the UN body responsible for Palestinian refugees has called on warring parties to spare civilians.
Unable to retrieve bodies
“There are some families that have been buried under the rubble and no one is able to retrieve their bodies,” said Abu Osama, a resident who fled the camp two days ago to nearby Yalda, joining thousands of others seeking relative safety there since the start of the latest offensive.
“The regime is just burning and destroying ... and then trying to advance on several fronts,” Rami Al Sayed, a former resident of Yarmouk who is now on its outskirts, said.
The camp, which has been under siege by the regime since rebels captured it in 2012, was home to some 160,000 Palestinians before the Syrian conflict began in 2011, refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their descendents.
The Daesh terror group claimed to have repelled the latest attacks on its positions in Al Qadam and Hay Al Tadamon, killing at least 17 regime fighters killed in sniper attacks.
Daesh also pushed overnight into some positions in the southern Damascus pocket where mainly mainstream rebels operating under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army are in control, opposition sources said.
A deal was reached overnight under Russian auspices to evacuate those FSA rebels who are based in the towns of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem that adjoin Daesh-held areas to opposition held areas in northern Syria, a rebel source said confirming leaks in state media.