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PLO: ISIS 'beheading, raping' Palestinian residents of Yarmouk

April 20, 2016 11:11 A.M. (Updated: April 20, 2016 8:36 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian residents of Syria's beleaguered Yarmouk refugee camp have undergone executions, beheadings, and rape as deadly clashes continue between the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front, the PLO envoy to Syria has said.

Anwar Abed al-Hadi told Ma'an on Tuesday night that IS militants were in control of about 70 percent of Yarmouk, once the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria and a once thriving neighborhood of southern Damascus.

He said refugees had suffered extreme conditions in recent days, with most families trapped in their homes to avoid the fierce armed clashes raging on the camp's narrow streets.

Abed al-Hadi said the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front helped IS into the camp last year, but the two extremist groups had since turned on one another, and IS now held the majority of the camp.

He said IS was practicing the same brutal methods they had across the rest of Syria, including executions on the street, beheadings, and rape. He said at least 20 people in the camp had been beheaded and buried before anyone was able to identify them.

Some 3,000 IS militants have been deployed in Yarmouk and the adjacent Hajar al-Aswad area, the PLO envoy said.

This latest crisis to strike Yarmouk erupted on April 7, and has also seen heavy shelling from Syrian regime forces, who have maintained a blockade of the refugee camp since 2013.

The Jafra Foundation, a Yarmouk-based humanitarian organization, said last week that at least four civilians had so far been killed -- including two who were beheaded by IS fighters -- and another five civilians, including children, were wounded by sniper fire.

Yarmouk used to be home to nearly 200,000 people, the majority Palestinian refugees, but after two years of a Syrian regime siege, followed by IS's incursion into the camp, the vast majority were forced to flee. The Jafra Foundation estimates some 5,000 to 8,000 residents remain.

The regime's siege and deadly fighting has forced Yarmouk residents to rely entirely on humanitarian aid, but fighting has made aid delivery nearly impossible over the past three years.

The Jafra Foundation reported that IS and al-Nusra have not been damaged by the government's ongoing siege on the camp, with both groups maintaining a supply of provisions and weapons.

The Syrian conflict began in the form of peaceful protests in March 2011 and quickly morphed into a civil war that has so far left more than 300,000 people dead and millions displaced.
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