Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command chief Ahmad Jibril fled to Lebanon after many members of his pro-Syrian regime group in the embattled Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus defected and several FPLP-GC outposts fell into the hands of Free Syrian Army combatants, a rebel Syrian source told NOW on Thursday.
“We had no intention to enter the Yarmuk camp and we did try to negotiate with its residents in order to prevent any clash, but Jibril’s snipers insisted on targeting FSA members on the outskirts of the camp, which forced us to storm it and head exclusively to FPLP-GC positions,” Abu al-Wafa, a colonel in the Military Revolutionary Council for Damascus and Damascus’ District, told NOW.
“We tried to negotiate their exit from the camp while keeping their weapons but they wouldn’t listen so the clashes started. Several members of the FPLP-GC defected then and joined the FSA. The camp was cleared of Ahmad Jibril’s militias and Ahmad Jibril fled to Lebanon,” he said.
According to Abu al-Wafa, the defections signaled the start of a second phase of the FSA’s military operations.
“We communicated with Palestinian groups, such as Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Nayef Hawatmeh, in order to negotiate with the FPLP-GC and the [Syrian] regime, avoid entering the camp again and turn Palestinian camps into safe zones under FSA protection organized by popular committees.”
“This was indeed the case, as we invited the Palestinians to return to their homes, and a great number did return. We will not have regime forces enter the Yarmuk camp. We are capable of protecting it by land but we cannot shield it against missile and artillery fire. Palestinian groups and the regime agreed on the prevention of any future shelling of the Yarmuk camp.”
On another level, the FSA military official explained how the prisoners were liberated, saying: “We got a distress call from the prisoners held by the Patrol Branch and we had no choice but to answer it. We communicated with an honest man on the inside, an officer… 3,000 prisoners were liberated and managed to get hold of weapons within the Branch. Clashes occurred and claimed the lives of 65 prisoners.”
“We, in turn, shelled the Palestine Branch roadblock to the south.”
The same source went on: “The FSA then clashed with regime forces at the Palestine Branch roadblock in order to divert their attention from what is going on in the Patrol Branch. We thus fired a mortar shell to create a gap through which the prisoners escaped to a safe location. The clashes in front of the Patrol and Palestine Branch [positions] are ongoing.”
Abu Iyad, a spokesperson for the Military Revolutionary Council for Damascus and Damascus’ District, said: “The military operations in Damascus have yet to start in theory, but they did start [in practice] about a month ago and we’re making progress. We managed to gain total control of the southern district, and we will soon liberate Damascus.”
Talks began on Wednesday aimed at removing both rebel and pro-government fighters from Yarmuk as residents took flight from the fighting in the camp in their droves.
Newspapers in neighboring Lebanon said on Friday that an agreement had been reached under the auspices of Mokhtar Lamani, the representative of UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Fierce clashes erupted in the camp earlier in the week as rebels drove into in in their ongoing military campaign in southern Damascus.