Concern rises that Damascus could fall

WASHINGTON – The ISIS attack on the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus has shocked residents who thought they were relatively safe, under the protection of government forces.

“Who let them in?” one source in Damascus requesting anonymity asked WND. “Why no defenses? When will the non-existent barrel bombs and gas begin?

“How long before Sham (Syria) falls and it’s all over?” he asked.

Another source, in neighboring Lebanon, told WND that fighters from the extreme Sunni ISIS, also known as the Islamic State and ISIL, retook control of some 70 percent of the camp that houses some 18,000 Palestinian refugees, with fierce fighting continuing.

Sources say the ISIS militants entered Yarmouk from the nearby neighborhood of Hajar Al-Aswad, where they remained after having been expelled last year from most of the Damascus suburbs.

At one time, the Palestinian population of Yarmouk stood at some 160,000, but food and water shortages and the camp’s eventual takeover by Hamas, the Palestinian Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra prompted most residents to leave.

In turn, this contributed to the massive refugee influx into neighboring Lebanon before officials there began to choke off their entry.

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The sources tell WND that ISIS continues to shell the camp the militant group’s snipers remain positioned on rooftops.

They add that Nusra fighters apparently allied with ISIS militants are trying to take over most of the camp.

The al-Qaida affiliate Nusra, which was initially founded by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to undertake jihad into Syria, later split after Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Baghdadi split over whether Nusra would join ISIS.

Sources in Syria and Lebanon are expecting ISIS to increase attacks throughout both countries, with the attack on the Yarmouk Palestinian camp being the beginning of a renewed thrust this year.

The ISIS attack on Yarmouk also has raised concerns among observers that other Palestinian camps throughout Syria, Lebanon and even Jordan could become the base for ISIS takeover and recruitment, now that the weather is more conducive for attacks.

Written by F. MICHAEL MALOOF
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