A PLO delegation met with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in Damascus on Tuesday to discuss preventing the Islamic State terror group from maintaining control of the Yarmouk refugee camp, where thousands of Palestinians live.
The diplomatic mission, sent by Mahmoud Abbas, included senior PLO official, Anwar Abdel Hadi, who is responsible for the organization's affairs in Syria. At least 2,000 people have fled the camp on the outskirts of Damascus, but thousands more remain.
"Except for direct armed intervention, the Syrian authorities are ready to support Palestinian fighters in a number of ways, including militarily, in order to expel IS from the camp," said Hadi.
Mekdad was quoted in Syria's news agency as saying that the government was making every effort to provide humanitarian and medical assistance to the Palestinian refugees and has helped many leave the camp safely.
"Syria and the PLO are determined to fight the terror that has arrived at the refugee camps in Syria and in Yarmouk in particular," said Mekdad. However, residents have claimed that battles between IS and the Syrian army led to an uptick in the dropping of barrel bombs in the area -- causing significant civilian casualties.
Ahmed Majdalani, who headed the PLO mission, told AFP that the meeting resulted in an agreement that the position of the different Palestinian factions in Syria should be united in coordination with the Syrian government.
A potential complicating factor is the bad blood between Hamas and the Syrian regime in recent years following the former's support of the rebels and its departure from Damascus. The camp contains several Palestinian groups that oppose the Syrian regime and even cooperated with rebel organizations such as Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis.
Ahmed Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command organization, which has ties to the Syrian government, said Tuesday that "Khaled Mashal (the political leader ot Hamas) asked us to assist Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis in fighting in Yarmouk."
He added that his organization asked the Syrian government to rise above the tensions and help Palestinian militants attempting to halt the IS takeover of the camp. Jibril also claimed that Israel has been giving orders in order to take revenge on Palestinians in the camp. The Syrian government, too, mentioned Israel alongside other regional nations allegedly supporting terrorists in a telegram sent to the United Nations on the situation in Yarmouk
Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, associated with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, on Tuesday described events in the camp as "Yarmouk's Nakba" and criticized Hamas and Khaled Mashal for standing by the rebels.
In recent days, senior Palestinian Authority and PLO officials fiercely condemned Islamic State and other belligerents in the camp, and has urged the world to intervene to save the thousands of Palestinians still in the camp.
"Today I walked through the bombs and sniper fire to feed my children," a resident told Ynet.
"You have to understand, my neighbor went to get food for his children, was shot by a sniper and died. Today we buried him. That's how it here: If you want to feed your children, you need to take your funeral shroud with you. There are snipers on every street, you are not safe anywhere.