PLO delegation to hold talks with Syria on Yarmuk relief

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - A Palestinian official said Monday a delegation was heading to Damascus for talks on helping residents inside the Yarmuk refugee camp, parts of which have been overrun by the Islamic State group.

Hundreds of families have been evacuated from the camp in a southern neighbourhood of Damascus after IS jihadists launched on attack on Wednesday.

Palestinian forces inside Yarmuk are largely surrounded by IS fighters who have captured large parts of the camp.

Ahmed Majdalani, an official with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said the delegation would focus its efforts on providing security and assistance to the camp.

"We will discuss with a number of Syrian officials securing the relief corridor opened yesterday to deliver humanitarian aid and getting civilians out so they won't become human shields for the terrorist Daesh group," he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

The delegation will also hold meetings with various Palestinian factions to discuss how to counter IS threats, said Majdalani, who is heading the group.

Majdalani accused IS militants of "seeking to control the whole camp" and to use it "as a springboard for attacks on the Syrian capital Damascus because of its strategic location".

The visit came after talks with officials in several Arab countries.

"We have an Arab and international plan to stop the violence perpetrated against our people," Majdalani told AFP.

In a statement, the PLO called for "all sides to immediately agree to protect the camp from efforts to turn it into a battlefield".

It also called for civilians to be granted relief corridors and humanitarian and medical assistance.

- Security Council demands access -

The UN Security Council on Monday demanded humanitarian aid access to the refugees.

The 15-member body called "for the protection of civilians in the camp for ensuring a humanitarian access to the area including by providing life-saving assistance," said Jordan's ambassador Dina Kawar, the council chair this month.

Since the jihadist advance began, regime forces have pounded the camp with shells and barrel bombs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

Dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters meanwhile protested in Gaza on Monday to demand an end to the violence in Yarmuk.

"We demand the attackers immediately stop their killing," former Hamas justice minister Mohamed Faraj al-Ghul told protesters outside the parliament building in the Gaza Strip.

Yarmuk "must be a neutral place, far from the madness of war," he said, urging an international intervention to "stop the killing".

Yarmuk was once a thriving neighbourhood home to 160,000 Palestinian refugees and Syrians but has been caught up in the country's civil unrest which began in 2011.

It has been besieged by regime forces for more than a year and only about 18,000 residents are estimated to remain in the camp after many fled the fighting.

IS, which has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, has fought not only against President Bashar al-Assad's regime but also against other rebel groups as it seeks to expand the territory under its control.

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