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News, April 2015
Islamic State Fighters Withdraw from Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp, Nusra Fighters Remain
April 15, 2015
Islamic State withdraws from Yarmouk camp, Nusra remains: residents
AMMAN | By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:56am EDT
Islamic State fighters have largely withdrawn from a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus after expelling their main rival, several residents and a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.
The pull-out from Yarmouk leaves al Qaeda-linked Nusra as the main group inside the camp.
The sources said hundreds of fighters of the hardline Islamic State had returned to their stronghold in neighboring Hajar al Aswad, from where they had launched their attack earlier this month.
"Most of them have withdrawn in mostly to-and-fro skirmishes that took place between them and their adversaries," resident Abu Ahmad Hawari said.
Alongside seeking to capture the camp, they sought to defeat their rival, the Hamas-linked Aknaf Baytul Maqdis, an opposition group that was ideologically opposed to them.
Islamic State's arrival in Yarmouk had given the jihadist group a significant foothold a few kilometers from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's seat of power.
The group was still fighting some of the remaining Aknaf Baytul Maqdis fighters in the northern entrance of the camp at the junction of the main Palestine and Yarmouk streets, two residents said.
The withdrawal leaves al-Qaeda offshoot al Nusra as the biggest force in the camp, many of whose residents have fled since Islamic State launched its offensive, they added.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation envoy to Damascus said that Nusra was now the main group in the camp.
"They and Nusra are one. They are changing positions," Anwar Abdul Hadi told Reuters.
Nusra was accused by its rivals of facilitating the entry of Islamic State fighters into the camp. Although they are rivals elsewhere in Syria, both share a loathing for Aknaf al Maqdis.
But Nusra, unlike Islamic State, was not ready to push its rivalry to a military confrontation and did not engage in the latest round of fighting in Yarmouk, according to residents.
The camp was home to some 160,000 Palestinians before the Syrian conflict began in 2011, refugees from the 1948 war of Israel's founding, and their descendents.
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)
Islamic State seizes village in Iraq's Anbar province
Wed Apr 15, 2015 6:52am EDT
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State fighters gained ground in western Iraq on Wednesday, overrunning another village near the capital of Anbar province in a dawn raid, police sources and local officials said.
Hundreds of families were fleeing Albu Ghanim after security forces came under attack from the militants overnight and withdrew from the area, around 5 km (3 miles) northeast of the provincial capital Ramadi.
The fighters have been making inroads on Ramadi's northern periphery since the government announced the start of a new offensive last week to recapture the Sunni heartland of Anbar.
Large parts of the province had slipped from the government's grasp even before Islamic State seized the northern city of Mosul last June and proclaimed a caliphate straddling the border between Iraq and Syria.
Security forces and Shi'ite paramilitaries have since regained some ground in Iraq, although core Sunni territories remain under Islamic State control, including Nineveh province, of which Mosul is capital, and most of Anbar.
The new Anbar campaign was intended to build on a victory in the city of Tikrit, which Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite paramilitaries retook this month.
But the Sunni jihadists have struck back in Anbar as well as Baiji, where they blasted through the security perimeter around Iraq's largest refinery several days ago.
The operations command for Salahuddin province in which Baiji is located said skirmishes between security forces and the militants continued on Wednesday inside the refinery compound.
(Reporting by Saif Hameed; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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