Syrian troops tightened the noose on Sunday around a Palestinian refugee camp held by Islamic State militants in southern Damascus where hundreds of civilians face an uncertain future, state media, witnesses and residents said. The Syrian army captured the IS-controlled areas in al-Qadam on Saturday, according to the state news agency SANA.
Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner of the United Nations Works and Relief Agency which runs camps for Palestinian refugees, warned of the "catastrophic consequences of the escalation" in the camp, which had "endured indescribable pain and suffering over years of conflict".
The announcement comes at the tail of a regime offensive in the city including the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk.
Fighting has also occurred in an area bordering Yarmuk camp and Hajar Al Aswad, "which the regime is trying to divide", Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told the media. Aerial strikes and bombardment have relentlessly pounded residential areas for days.
The army had made broad advances, said state television. The sprawling camp was part of a densely populated, impoverished squatter belt only few kilometers away from the heart of the capital.
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Christopher Gunness, a UNRWA spokesman, said the plight of remaining civilians had worsened: "Many are sleeping in the streets, begging for medicine".
In a joint report published last week with other watchdogs, Action Group for Palestinians of Syria said the camp had been targeted with at least two air raids every 90 seconds during the ongoing offensive.
"There is nearly no water or electricity".
The ultra-hardline Sunni militants also pushed overnight into some positions in the southern Damascus pocket where mainly mainstream rebels operating under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are in control, opposition sources said.
The rebels in the area will depart for the rebel-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib, and in return, the rebels in Idlib will break a siege imposed for years on the pro-government towns of Kafraya and Foa in Idlib's countryside. The government aims to push them to leave the area for northern Syria under an evacuation deal.