IS militants battle armed groups in Syria refugee camp

AP News
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Posted: Apr 03, 2015 12:18 PM
IS militants battle armed groups in Syria refugee camp

BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic State militants fought Friday against armed groups inside a refugee camp in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and have made new advances inside the camp, Palestinian officials and activists said.

The militants stormed the Yarmouk camp on Wednesday, marking the Islamic State's deepest foray yet into Damascus. They were expelled Thursday but officials said they re-entered the camp Friday.

One Palestinian official, Khaled Abdul-Majid, said the group is in control of half of the camp. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported new advances by the group inside the camp.

Abdul-Majid and another official, Anwar Raja, said the militants are fighting a Palestinian faction called Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.

Elsewhere in Syria, other militant groups captured at least eight Lebanese truck drivers near a border crossing point with Jordan, according to Lebanon's state National News Agency and an activist in the southern Syrian province of Daraa.

The men were taken late Thursday near the Nasib border crossing point, hours after it was captured by an array of militant groups, including members of al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front.

The Lebanese agency said the militants are holding 10 drivers, adding that others fled because the area was being subjected to shelling. The Daraa-based activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said Nusra Front members are holding eight Lebanese.

"They confiscated all the goods that were on the trucks, too," the activist said via Skype. He said it is not clear why Nusra is holding the drivers, adding that they might want to exchange them with militants held in Lebanon.

The Observatory said Nusra now controls the Nasib border crossing and decides who is allowed to enter from Jordan.

Nasib is an important route for Damascus to get essentials and for merchants and businessmen as a way to export to the Gulf. A prolonged closure will increase the stranglehold on an economy ravaged by four years of war.

The Nusra Front has been holding more than a dozen Lebanese soldiers and policemen since August, when the group launched a cross border attack into Lebanon. Nusra has killed two of the troops so far.

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Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.