Palestinian Jihadi Group Clashes with Islamic State over Refugee Camp

On April 2, 2015, Palestinian fighters and Syrian rebels moved to retake a refugee camp in Syria’s capital of Damascus which had been seized by the Islamic state.

IS has held control over substantial portions of the camp following fighting which began on April 1st. ISIS captured the majority of the camp, in order to position themselves to target Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. Reportedly, Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al Nusra fighters joined Islamic State in the attack.

While it initially seemed the Islamic State had succeeded, later in the day, the Palestinian terrorist group, Aknaf Beit Al-Maqdis retaliated, attempting to retake the Yarmouk camp.

Approximately 18,000 civilians, 3,500 of whom are children, live in the refugee camp. The United Nations Refugee Works Agency, states that the clashes taking part inside of the camp are putting the children at serious risk.

Syrian rebels entered the camp in order to help fight against the Islamic State. By the end of April 2nd they had forced ISIS to the edges of the camp. Fighting is currently continuing on the outskirts of the camp, with Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis and the Syrian rebels trying to regain complete control. So far, there have been six fatalities and 17 others wounded.

Palestinian fighters who were able to regain control of nearly all of the camp though IS remains present on the borders.

Several articles have reported that the group Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis is loyal to Hamas. Previously the group’s allegiance was to al-Qaeda and in 2013, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis was publicly speaking out against Hamas. Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis’ renewed loyalty may be recognition that they share more in common with Hamas than IS.

The Islamic State’s Dabiq magazine recently published its argument against what it described as factionalism, and instead emphasized loyalty to the Islamic State and the path to global jihad.

Despite their similar in goals, Hamas and Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis are principally Palestinian in orientation and support liberating Palestine as an Islamic State as a first step towards global jihad.

As a result, there have been repeated rhetorical disagreements between Hamas (and its parent organization, The Muslim Brotherhood) and the Islamic State. Islamic State believes that it is inappropriate for Hamas to try to liberate Palestine as a national project, because the true priority is establishing a united Islamic caliphate.

Yet again, we see how an ideological analysis can provide useful insights regarding inter-jihadi disputes.