“‘I saw ISIS playing with a severed head as if it was a football. They killed children in front of their parents’: Refugees in Yarmouk reveal atrocities they have seen since Islamic State took over the camp,” by John Hall, MailOnline, April 8, 2015:
A young Syrian boy has revealed how he saw depraved Islamic State militants playing football with a severed head inside the besieged Yarmouk refugee camp.
Amjad Yaaqub, 16, said he stumbled on the barbaric scene shortly after the terrorists beat him unconscious when they burst into his family home at the camp in the Syrian capital Damascus.
The schoolboy said the ISIS fighters were looking for his brother, who is a member of the Palestinian rebel group who ran and defended the camp for several years before ISIS carried out a bloody assault that has left more than 200 people dead in just seven days.
His story was revealed as refugees in Yarmouk spoke of the daily atrocities they have witnessed since ISIS seized control of 90 per cent of the camp, including innocent children being slaughtered in front of their anguished parents.
After enduring two years of famine and fighting, Ibrahim Abdel Fatah said he saw heads cut off by ISIS in the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. That was it. He fled and hasn’t looked back.
Unshaven, pale and gaunt, he has found refuge with his wife and seven children at the Zeinab al-Haliyeh school in Tadamun, a southeastern district of the Syrian capital held by the army.
‘I saw severed heads. They killed children in front of their parents. We were terrorised,’ he said.
‘We had heard of their cruelty from the television, but when we saw it ourselves… I can tell you, their reputation is well-deserved,’ the 55-year-old said.
The school is currently home to 98 displaced people, among them 40 children, who have been put up in three classrooms.
The usual occupants, schoolchildren, have been evacuated temporarily from rooms where mattresses and bedding now blanket the floor.
‘I left my house which was the only thing I had. My family lived on rations supplied by UNRWA,’ the United Nations agency that looks after Palestinian refugees, the former caretaker said.
Anwar Abdel Hadi, a Palestine Liberation Organisation official in Damascus, said 500 families, or about 2,500 people, fled Yarmouk before IS fighters attacked the camp last Wednesday.
Before the assault, there were around 18,000 people in Yarmouk in a southern neighbourhood of the Syrian capital.
Yarmouk was once a thriving district housing 160,000 Palestinian refugees and Syrians. But that was before it too was caught up in the widespread civil unrest which erupted in 2011.
In late December 2012, Yarmouk – just four miles from central Damascus – became a battlefield between pro- and anti-government forces before a merciless siege began.
The camp has been encircled for more than a year, but is now reported to be almost completely under the control of ISIS and Al Qaeda’s local affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.
Residents who fled the advancing jihadists last week have been put up in regime-held areas nearby.
According to Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, nearly 200 people had died in Yarmouk from malnutrition and lack of medicines before last Wednesday’s assault.
Speaking of the moment he stumbled on the ISIS militants, 16-year-old Amjad said: ‘In Palestine Street, I saw two members of Daesh playing with a severed head as if it was a football.
Wearing a baseball cap sideways, rapper-style, the youth has a swollen eye and chin.
‘Daesh came to my home looking for my brother who’s in the Palestinian Popular Committees. They beat me until I passed out and left me for dead,’ he added, referring to the group by an Arabic acronym
At the entrance to the school, Umm Usama chatted with fellow refugees who had got out.
‘I left the camp despite myself,’ said the 40-year-old woman who had lived in Yarmouk for 17 years.
‘I’d stayed on despite the bombings and famine. It was terrible, we ate grass, but at least I was at home.
‘Daesh’s arrival meant destruction and massacre. Their behaviour’s not human and their religion is not ours,’ added the thin woman with sunken eyes.
‘Everything changed when IS arrived. Before that we didn’t fear death, because if there was fighting, the rebels made sure the civilians got to shelters,’ said Abir, a 47-year-old woman who was born and raised in Yarmouk.
There are no suitcases to be seen in the classrooms — the families had to leave so quickly there was no time to pack anything.
‘I left without bringing any belongings. My husband wasn’t able to join me. I walked out hugging the walls so snipers couldn’t see me,’ said 19-year-old Nadia, nursing her two-month-old baby.
Yesterday ISIS launched English-language radio news bulletins on its al-Bayan radio network.
The militant group’s English bulletin, promoted via Twitter, accompanies Arabic and Russian bulletins already airing on the network.
The first bulletin, which provided an overview of their activities in Iraq, Syria and Libya, discussed a range of topics including the alleged death of an ISIS commander in Yarmouk, a suicide bombing in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk and mortar attacks on militias in Sirte, Libya.
ISIS holds territory in a third of Iraq and Syria and is becoming increasingly active in Libya.
The group already publishes a monthly online English-language magazine, Dabiq, with religious lessons, plus news about its activities.