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Yarmouk truce rumors spark fears of chaos, settling scores

AMMAN: Some residents of Yarmouk camp fear “regime revenge” and […]

10 December 2015

AMMAN: Some residents of Yarmouk camp fear “regime revenge” and renewed fighting for the two-square-kilometer refugee camp if the Islamic State (IS) and the regime in fact conclude a rumored agreement that stipulates the former’s withdrawal from south Damascus.

The regime and the IS are reportedly negotiating a ceasefire agreement that will grant IS fighters safe passage from south Damascus to either Marea or A-Raqqa in north Syria, reported Al-Hiwar Channel, among other Syrian pro-opposition media on Thursday. In exchange, IS will cede control of these areas to regime forces.

The camp is divided, with four factions ruling it: Jabhat a-Nusra, Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis, Jamaat al-Ansar and the Islamic State. Due to the nature of fighting inside Yarmouk, it is not clear how much turf each faction controls. The Hamas-affiliated Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis, the only relatively moderate rebel faction in the camp, controls one uncompleted hospital building it uses as a base, adjacent to the Yalda neighborhood. That base was attacked by Jamaat al-Ansar this past Sunday, but Aknaf drove them back.  

Rebel factions control the districts immediately east and west of Yarmouk while maintaining ceasefire agreements with the regime.

With so many competing factions in and around southern Damascus, IS’s withdrawal has the potential to create a renewed struggle over the area or some manifestation of collective revenge, Yarmouk residents told Syria Direct.

“If a battle between IS or Nusra and the rebel factions [in neighboring areas] under the ceasefire agreement breaks out, the humanitarian corridor to the camp will be closed,” said Abu Bakr al-Filistini. “The losers will be the civilians in the area.”

Jabhat a-Nusra held a military display in the streets of Yarmouk on Wednesday in a sign that they have no intention of withdrawing, reported Abu Bakr on his Twitter page the same day.

Others fear that if IS hands its portions of the camp over to the regime, then it might “take revenge on the camp’s populace,” said Yarmouk resident Jalal al-Filistini.

Fears of a looming power struggle and regime retribution have compelled some residents to contemplate leaving the camp with IS to go towards A-Raqqa, said Jalal, adding that from there they could head to the Turkish border and leave Syria.

“We have become the victims at the hands of all of the warring factions,” said Abu Bakr.

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