This morning Reuters reported that after intense fighting, the Syrian rebels have taken control of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, a suburb near Damascus. Yarmouk is a crucial victory because it can provide the rebels access to areas in Damascus were government institutions are located. Abu Nidal, a rebel spokesman, therefore expects the Syrian government to fight back “fiercely”.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has expressed its concern about the 150,000 Palestine refugees living in the Yarmouk refugee camp. The fighting over the couple of days has caused several civilian deaths and forced most of Yarmouk’s residents to flee. Many of them are crossing the border to Lebanon.
Syria’s ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari has written a letter to the UN Secretary General in which he says that Syria is “genuinely worried” that some countries might equip extremist groups with chemical weapons and then claim they were used by the Syrian government. Ja’afari also accused the US government of supporting terrorists in Syria and falsely asserting that Syria could use chemical weapons.
Syria’s vice-president Farouq al-Sharaa stated in an interview with a Lebanese newspaper that he believes the Syrian civil war is currently in a stalemate and considers neither side able to win in the short run. According to al-Sharaa, any enduring solution “has to be Syrian, but through a historic settlement which would include the main regional countries and the members of the UN Security Council”.
Reuters furthermore reports that two Russians and one Italian steel worker have been kidnapped near Tartus. Russian Foreign Minister has stated that Russia is undertaking “all the necessary steps both in Syria and other countries” to ensure their release. Moscow has also announced it will send warships to the Mediterranean Sea in order to prepare a potential evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria.
Finally, NBC stated that Richard Engel, the channel’s chief foreign correspondent in Syria who was kidnapped five days ago, has been released unharmed after a gun fight which killed two of the kidnappers. NBC had requested a media black-out while Engel was kidnapped.