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Monday 26 September 2016

'Military option' for Syrian camp

Published 09/04/2015 | 16:11

Rubble and heavy damage remain on a deserted street during a government escorted visit to Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria (AP)
Rubble and heavy damage remain on a deserted street during a government escorted visit to Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria (AP)

An agreement has been reached with the Syrian government to use military force to expel Islamic State militants from an embattled Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, according to a Palestinian official.

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Palestinian labour minister Ahmad Majdalani told the Voice of Palestine Radio that "we have agreed with the Syrian government on ways to force the terrorist group IS out of the Yarmouk refugee camp".

He said "the military solution is the only one to force these terrorists out" of Yarmouk, which IS militants largely overran last week.

Mr Majdalani is leading a West Bank delegation to Damascus to address the Yarmouk crisis.

He said the Syrian government has also agreed to ensure safe passage to refugees in Yarmouk and to provide them with shelter outside the camp.

The International Committee of the Red Cross had earlier called for immediate access for humanitarian aid to the embattled camp.

The ICRC said emergency medical care is "urgently needed" for the estimated 18,000 people still inside the Yarmouk camp, which has been engulfed by fighting since IS militants last week overran much of the sprawling camp.

It said humanitarian needs "are growing by the day".

The current bout of fighting is just the latest trial for Yarmouk, where residents have already endured a two-year government siege, starvation and disease.

In a statement, the ICRC called on the armed factions to allow the "immediate and unimpeded passage" of humanitarian aid and to permit civilians who wish to flee to be able to do so.

Mr Majdalani told reporters in the Syrian capital that all Palestinian factions have agreed to continue consultations with the Syrian leadership and to form a joint operation room with government forces.

But it was unclear who exactly had signed on to the plan.

Yarmouk is home to factions that support Syrian president Bashar Assad and groups that oppose him, and it was unclear whether Palestinians from both sides of the divide had indeed agreed to join forces.

There was no immediate word from the main Palestinian faction fighting IS in Yarmouk, known as Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis. The group is opposed to Assad and affiliated with Hamas.

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