Residents queue up to receive humanitarian aid at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in Damascus..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Islamic State's violent takeover of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria is a mark of Cain on the foreheads of the international community and the Arab world specifically, MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) said Monday.
“What’s happening in the Yarmouk camp is a crime against humanity,” Tibi said. “Over a thousand Palestinians were killed.”
The Yarmouk camp, on the outskirts of Damascus, was once home to over 100,000 residents, but now has only 18,000, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
It was under siege by the Syrian government for over two years, and was a battleground before that, devastated by street fighting, air attacks and shelling.
ISIS completes takeover of Palestinian Yarmuk refugee camp
Islamic State has taken over 90 percent of Yarmouk, according to a Syrian human rights group, though the Syrian army surrounds the area, which is a few kilometers from President Bashar Assad’s palace.
Hundreds of Palestinians fled the camp in recent days, adding to the tens of thousands who have left in the four years since the civil war in Syria began.
Tibi, who visited the camp once while on a trip to Syria, said it was “between a rock and a hard place after two years under siege by the [Syrian] government, and now ISIS is in there committing horrific crimes.”
“ISIS is a fascist movement that is now publishing photos of heads it chopped off – including a photo of the imam of the mosque, a Hamas supporter – and claiming he is an apostate,” Tibi said in reference to reports from the camp that ISIS terrorists killed senior Hamas operative Sheikh Abu Salah Taha.
Reports have claimed that Taha had been captured and beheaded by Islamic State during fighting inside the camp.
However, a source in the camp denied that severed head belonged to the Hamas-affiliated imam, and said he was still alive.
Tibi said the international community, including the Arab world, should be ashamed of allowing the violence in Yarmouk to take place.
“I feel anger and great sadness about what is happening in what is left of the camp,” he stated. “There is a moral double standard. If other people were the victims, not Palestinians, it would be different.”
The Joint List MK called Yarmouk “another case where the refugees who suffered in the Nakba of 1948 are now suffering again,” using the Arabic term for “catastrophe,” which Palestinians and many Israeli-Arabs use to refer to the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.
“The killing of Palestinians is terrible,” Tibi added.
Yarmouk’s residents are registered as either Palestinian refugees of the War of Independence or their descendants.
They are granted refugee status by UNRWA in a policy that differs from the UN’s definition of refugees in other conflicts.
Meanwhile, the PLO on Monday called for ending the “tragedy” of Yarmouk and pursuing efforts to evict Islamic State from the camp. The appeal came as a senior PLO delegation led by Ahmed Majdalani headed from Ramallah to Syria to discuss ways of ending the fighting.
Other Palestinian sources denied reports that fierce clashes had erupted between Islamic State and armed groups inside the camp early Monday. The sources said the two sides exchanged gunfire only for a brief period, adding that the situation had been “calm” since the Syrian army dropped eight barrels of explosives on parts of Yarmouk late Sunday night.
UNRWA has expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Yarmouk.
“Never has the hour been more desperate in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in Damascus,” the UN organization said in a statement. “The lives of civilians in Yarmouk have never been more profoundly threatened.”Reuters contributed to this report.