Heavy fighting erupted on Friday in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus, pitting a united Palestinian force against the Islamic State militia, activists reported.
Yarmouk has been under a government-imposed blockade since 2013, when rebel forces gained a foothold in the camp, strategically located on the southern tip of Damascus.
For more than a week now, Yarmouk, Syria's largest refugee camp, has been under fire from both Syrian regime troops and Islamic State jihadists.
"Fighting has raged since the early hours of the day on the edge of the camp, which is close to the area of Hajar al-Aswad where, Islamic State has bases already," said Khaled Abdel-Majid, the secretary general of the united Palestinian factions that are fighting the extremists.
"Our force is now in the center of the camp after confining Islamic State terrorists to only 35 per cent of the camp," he told dpa by phone. His claim could not be independently verified.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces had shelled Yarmouk with artillery without reporting casualties.
Syrian state television meanwhile showed pictures of what it said were shelled parts of the camp seized by the militants.
Palestinian factions in Damascus have agreed to form a united force backing the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to drive extremists out of the camp.
Humanitarian groups have warned of a dire situation in Yarmouk, where at least 14,000 civilians are trapped in the fight.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has demanded an immediate end to hostilities in Yarmouk, saying that it was "beginning to resemble a death camp."
Before Syria's 2011 uprising, the camp was home to 150,000 Palestinians, refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now