The Los Angeles Times reports: The Yarmouk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus was already an emblem of the enormous suffering unleashed by Syria’s civil war — and that was before the militants of the Islamic State moved in.
Besieged, starved and bombarded over the past two years, the camp is the scene of fresh calamity, with reports beginning to filter out of beheadings and other atrocities that have become Islamic State hallmarks.
Over the past few days, the Sunni militants have seized most of Yarmouk, officials and residents say, giving the group its most significant foothold to date in Damascus. Most Islamic State-held territory is in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, where the group has been the target of a months-long campaign of U.S.-led airstrikes.
Aside from the strategic location of the camp, on the Syrian capital’s southern flank and only a few miles from President Bashar Assad’s palace, U.N. and Palestinian officials say Yarmouk is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.
About 1,800 people remain trapped in the camp, which had a prewar population of about a quarter-million, many of them the descendants of Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes upon Israel’s creation in 1948. Before the civil war began in 2011, the camp was among the largest concentrations of Palestinians outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The crisis has struck a nerve with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, who feel a sense of kinship, and among Israeli Arabs still living in the northern Galilee region, where many of the camp’s Palestinian residents have family roots. [Continue reading…]