Islamist fighters began evacuating from rebel-held areas in southern Damascus on Friday as part of a UN-brokered deal to allow them safe passage in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, which was the size of a city before the war.
The deal was agreed upon by the Syrian government and rebel groups with the sponsorship of the UN, and it could result in the end of the lengthy siege on Yarmouk.
ISIS took over wide swathes of the southern Damascus camp, which houses thousands of Palestinians, in April. In recent months camp residents found themselves caught between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, on the one hand, and the Syrian regime's military and the Palestinian factions loyal to the regime, on the other.
On the eve of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, there were about 170,000 Palestinians in the camp. In the wake of intense warfare, the takeover by ISIS, and a severe humanitarian crisis, only 5,000 have remained. The jihadists have been terrorizing anyone who has managed to stay in Yarmouk.
ISIS has in the past months succeeded in increasing control over southern Damascus, which has eased passage to Yarmouk. ISIS formed a Damascus branch in light of its success – a branch that has released a video of a fighter speaking in Hebrew and threatening Israel.