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Thousands flee in panic from ferocious IS attack near Damascus

As many as 2,000 residents from a main camp for Palestinian refugees south of Damascus fled to nearby areas over the past few days, escaping the ferocious attack by the Islamic State (IS) militants, a monitor group and local press reported Sunday.

Hundreds of the Yarmouk Camp residents reached the rebel-held areas of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahm in the southern edge of Damascus over the past two days, as a result of the clashes there between the Aknaf Beit al-Maqdes rebel group and the IS militants, who unleashed a wide-scale offensive against the camp since the beginning of this month, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The rebels inside Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahm have recently agreed to a reconciliation with the government forces, which allowed the entry of food and aid to those areas in exchange of a halt of hostilities by the rebels inside those areas.

The situation in the three towns is not better than that of Yarmouk, as hunger and illness are the main theme, but without a grinding war.

Meanwhile, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV said hundreds of others fled to the government-controlled area of Zahira on the other side of the camp. 90 people were evacuated on Sunday alone, it added.

It said thousands of others are still trapped inside the battered camp.

The UK-based observatory said the camp has seen ferocious shelling and battles, as the IS and the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front have become in control of over 90 percent of that camp.

26 militants from both sides were killed over the past few days, and the IS executed seven civilians there, the Observatory added.

Aknaf Beit al-Maqdes is a group of Palestinian fighters who sided with other jihadist groups in the face of the Syrian government. Reports said the Nusra Front, which was stationing near the camp, had facilitated the entry of the IS militants into that battered area.

The Syrian government brands the Aknaf group as a terrorist militant organization after the group refused several reconciliation attempts that were designed to disarm the militants inside the camp and alleviate the suffering of the trapped people inside.

The Yarmouk camp is a large district in southern Damascus. Among its one million residents, 170,000 are Palestinians. Most of them fled to Syria in 1948 following the establishment of the Israeli state.

[Source: Xinhua, Damascus, 05Apr15]

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