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Military operation needed in Syria’s Yarmouk camp — minister

By AFP - Apr 08,2015 - Last updated at Apr 08,2015

DAMASCUS — A military operation is necessary to expel Daesh jihadists from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in south Damascus, Syria's reconciliation minister said on Wednesday.

"The priority now is to expel and defeat militants and terrorists in the camp. Under the present circumstances, a military solution is necessary," minister Ali Haidar said in Damascus.

He made the comments after meeting Palestine Liberation Organisation official Ahmed Majdalani, who travelled from the West Bank for emergency talks on the situation in the embattled Yarmouk camp.

"It is not the state that has chosen this, but those who entered the camp," added Haidar, referring to fighters from the jihadist group.

Haidar did not spell out when a military operation might begin, or how it would be waged, but he suggested that Syrian troops could be involved.

"The Syrian state will decide whether the battle requires it," he said, when asked if Syrian soldiers would participate in any operation.

Daesh forces attacked Yarmouk on April 1, and have seized large swathes of the camp, executing Palestinian fighters who sought to resist.

The group's presence in Yarmouk has sparked international concern for the camp's remaining residents, who have endured repeated bombardment and a siege of more than 18 months by the army.

The government and residents of the capital have also been rattled by the presence of Daesh militants just kilometres from the heart of Damascus.

Once a thriving district that was home to some 160,000 Syrian and Palestinian residents, Yarmouk has been wracked by violence since late 2012.

The Syrian army imposed a tight siege on the camp that reportedly led to deaths because of shortages of food and medicines.

An agreement between rebels and the government, backed by Palestinian factions in the camp, was reached last year and led to an easing of the siege, although humanitarian access has remained limited.

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