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Palestinian refugees outside Syrian capital 'at extreme risk of death'

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Palestinian refugees outside Syrian capital 'at extreme risk of death'


The jihadist Islamic State offensive has been closing in on the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Conflicting reports say Palestinian fighters and Syrian rebels have managed to retake control of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk from IS.

IS on Wednesday had seized it from other groups fighting against President Bashar al Assad’s forces, the Palestinian Aknaf Beit al Maqdis and the Nusra Front al Qaeda faction in Syria.

Yarmouk lies six kilometres from central Damascus, Assad’s seat of power. It could constitute a bridgehead for an eventual attack.

The United Nations relief agency UNRWA estimates that there are some 3,500 children among the 18,000 civilians still in Yarmouk. There used to be some 160,000 people before the 2011 start of the Syrian civil war. In 2012, insurgents took control. A Syrian army siege began in 2013. The UN said people here, living in “complete deprivation”, were “at extreme risk of death and serious injury.”

Humanitarian aid delivered by the UN over the years has been interrupted frequently, once for more than four months, by battles in or around the camp. Aid resumed in March.

Just days ago, an alliance of Islamist groups captured the northwestern city of Idlib from the government. The Nusra Front and another group said they would impose sharia law.

The ultra-hardline Islamic State already controls significant patches of eastern Syria and Iraq.

A Syrian government security source confirmed that an alliance of mainstream rebel groups known as The Southern Front said it had captured the Nasib crossing at the border with US ally Jordan.

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