Military Operation Needed in Syria's Yarmuk Camp, Says Minister

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

Syria said Wednesday a military operation was needed to expel jihadists who have overrun large parts of a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus, trapping thousands of civilians inside.

The Islamic State group's advances in the Yarmuk camp have sparked international concern for the civilians, who have already endured repeated bombardment and an army siege of more than 18 months.

The European Union has announced additional aid for residents of the camp, saying their suffering was reaching "intolerable levels" and the U.N. Security Council has urged a humanitarian corridor into the district.

Syria's Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar on Wednesday said the crisis required a military operation.

"The priority now is to expel and defeat militants and terrorists in the camp," he said, after meeting Palestine Liberation Organization official Ahmed Majdalani, who arrived Tuesday from Ramallah.

"Under the present circumstances, a military solution is necessary," Haidar said.

He did not spell out when a military operation might begin or how it would be waged, but suggested that Syrian troops could be involved.

"The Syrian state will decide whether the battle requires it," he said.

- Concern for residents -

IS forces attacked Yarmuk on April 1 and have seized control of large parts of the camp, executing Palestinian fighters.

The Syrian government and residents of the capital have been rattled by the presence of IS militants just a few kilometers (miles) from the heart of Damascus.

Once a thriving district that was home to some 160,000 Syrian and Palestinian residents, Yarmuk has been devastated by violence since late 2012.

The Syrian army imposed a tight siege on the camp that reportedly led to deaths because of shortages of food and medicines.

An agreement between rebels and the government, backed by Palestinian factions in the camp, was reached last year and led to an easing of the siege, although humanitarian access remained limited.

Majdalani, speaking after meeting Haidar, said the Palestinian leadership would back whatever measures the Syrian government decided on.

"It is more and more difficult to talk about a political solution in the camp," he said.

"The Palestinian leadership will support any decision by the Syrian government," he added.

But it remains unclear whether that will be accepted by all Palestinian factions, including the Hamas-linked Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, which has led the fight against IS in Yarmuk.

A range of Palestinian factions, including Hamas representatives, are set to meet in Damascus on Wednesday evening to discuss the situation.

Inside the camp, concern has grown for the fate of thousands of residents, with the EU saying is would provide 2.5 million euros in emergency funding to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA.

"The suffering of civilians in Yarmuk camp is reaching intolerable level," EU aid commissioner Christos Stylianides said Tuesday.

He repeated a call from the U.N. Security Council for humanitarian access and protection of civilians.

Comments 0