The Islamic State (IS) has taken over a “large part” of a refugee camp in Syria that was once home to 160,000 people. Now the numbers have dwindled to 18,000 as fighting continues between Islamist extremists and the Assad regime.
According to NBC News, witnesses claim that the camp, called Yarmouk camp, is caught not only between IS and the Syrian government, but between other armed Islamist groups like Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
One witness said, “They pushed from the Hajar Aswad area and Nusra fighters have joined them. They have pledged loyalty to Daesh.”
Daesh is a derogatory name for IS in Arabic. The coordinated attack between Al Qaeda and IS will likely be a frightening development for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, especially being in the capital of Damascus. Why Nusra fighters suddenly decided to work with IS after years of bloody fighting is still unclear.
RTE reports that the Yarmouk refugee camp was once home to about 160,000 Palestinian refugees, along with many Syrians. The refugee camp has been involved in the Syrian conflict for four years, eventually falling under the control of anti-regime forces. Assad’s forces have besieged the camp for the past year and a half to retake control.
The fighting has left the refugees with critical shortages of water, food, and medicine.
Syrian rebel groups agreed to withdraw from the camp in February of 2014, leaving only the Palestinian anti-regime group Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis in place. Now, thanks to a new IS offensive, the Yarmouk refugees will have to deal with the Islamist group in control.
According to Reuters, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq confirmed the news.
“Credible information from public sources indicate that a variety of arms groups are engaged in fierce fighting in areas where Yarmouk’s 18,000 civilians, including a large number of children, reside.”
He added that the U.N. is continuing to monitor the situation closely.
In the meantime, Jordanian authorities have closed the last remaining functional border crossing between Syria and Jordan.
The Daily Mail reports that the Syrian foreign ministry held Jordan responsible for “obstructing the movement of trucks and passengers and any ensuing economic or social repercussions.”
A Jordanian government spokesman replied by explaining that the situation has become too dangerous to keep the crossing open.
“It is important for us to keep the safety for the passengers and those who are trying to cross between the two countries. So we decided to close the border temporarily, until things calm down. Then we will open it again.”
The lost economic revenue is just one of the Assad regime’s many problems, like the risk that IS and Al Qaeda can now strike downtown Damascus and at the president himself from the refugee camp.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]