Following the shelling of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp earlier this week by Syrian regime warplanes, Syrian opposition fighters took full control of the camp on Monday, according to opposition and Palestinian sources.
The move followed pleas from Palestinian officials to halt Syrian regime attacks on the camp, which killed dozens on Sunday.
The battle had pitted opposition fighters, backed by some Palestinians, against Palestinian fighters of the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). Many PFLP-GC fighters defected to the rebel side and their leader Ahmed Jibril left the camp two days ago, rebel sources
“All of the camp is under the control of the Free Syrian Army,” a Palestinian activist in Yarmouk told Reuters news agency. He said clashes had stopped and the remaining PFLP fighters retreated to join Assad’s forces massed on the northern edge of the camp.
The battle in Yarmouk is one of a series of conflicts on the southern fringes of Assad’s capital, as rebels try to choke the power of the 47-year-old leader after a 21-month-old uprising in which 40,000 people have been killed.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has spoke out against the Syrian regime’s shelling of the Yarmouk refugee camp on Sunday.
The camp was bombarded by a Syrian warplane, killing at least 25 people, according to activists at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Abbas condemned Damascus for the attack, urging "All parties involved in the Syrian conflict to refrain from harming our people in the refugee camps. Don't drag them into your fighting."
The leader said it was a “great concern” that the Palestinian people were “being forced into the unfortunate conflict in Syria."
Government forces have used jets and artillery to try to dislodge the fighters but the violence has crept into the heart of the city and activists say rebels overran three army stations in a new offensive in the central province of Hama on Monday.
On the border with Lebanon, hundreds of Palestinian families fled across the frontier following the weekend violence in Yarmouk, a Reuters witness said.
Syria hosts half a million Palestinian refugees, most living in Yarmouk, descendants of those admitted after the creation of Israel in 1948, and has always cast itself as a champion of the Palestinian struggle, sponsoring several guerrilla factions.
Both Assad’s government and the mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels have enlisted and armed divided Palestinian factions as the uprising has developed into a civil war.