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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

18,000 Palestinian refugees traped by IS militants at Yarmouk in Syria

Islamic State (IS) militants have entered the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Damascus, activists and Palestinian officials say.
Clashes erupted between the militants and groups inside the camp, with IS seizing control of large parts of the camp, reports said.
The UN says about 18,000 Palestinian refugees are inside the camp.
IS militants have seized large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq.
Yarmouk residents told BBC Arabic that members of Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, a group formed by Palestinian militiamen opposed to the Syrian government, were leading the fight against the IS militants, along with some Free Syrian Army fighters.
IS fighters had seized control of large parts of the camp, an official with the Palestine Liberation Organisation based in Damascus, and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
There has been no official statement from IS about the move.
Members of the self-proclaimed Islamic State stormed into the southern side of Yarmouk camp in the early hours of the morning and clashed with the Palestinian brigade, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.
Reports suggest they came in from the area of Hajar al-Aswad in the south of the capital. There has been no evidence in the past that IS had any foothold in Damascus.
The Palestinian Ambassador to Damascus, Anwar Abdulhadi, told the BBC that the group had seized the area of the camp near the Palestine Hospital.
Most information is coming from Palestinian officials in areas under government control.
The attack comes days before a deal to ease the humanitarian situation for civilians in the camp was set to come into operation.

Extreme hardship'

First built for Palestinians fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Yarmouk was once considered by many to be the de facto capital of the Palestinian refugee diaspora.
Prior to the Syrian civil war, it had more than 150,000 refugees living there, and its own mosques, schools and public buildings.
However, the camp has been besieged by fighting between government troops and rebel forces since 2012.
Unrwa, a UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, says about 18,000 refugees remain trapped in the camp, with inadequate access to food supplies, clean water and electricity.
In March, Unrwa said: "The extreme hardship faced by Palestine refugees in Yarmouk, but also in other locations in Syria as a result of the armed conflict is, from a human point of view, unacceptable."

War on Terror, War on Muslims?

US President Barack Obama is vowing to "degrade, and ultimately destroy" a terrorist group destabilising the Middle East he says could threaten Americans at home.
Sound familiar? George W Bush made a similar vow, yet more than a decade after launching the so-called War on Terror, both the war and the terror are still raging.
Obama says the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will be different than the two wars started by Bush. But Muslims looked at with suspicion around the world are wondering, how different will their treatment be?
What is the impact of increasing surveillance of Muslim communities, banning Islamic dress and equating a religion with a threat? Do the counter-terror measures adopted by the US, Britain and France erode the very democratic principles considered the pillars of a "free" society?
Marwan Bishara asks what happens when the War on Terror turns inward, and prolonged military action abroad turns into a culture of fear at home.

Source: Al Jazeera