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Improved security in Syria camp but virus threat grows

Residents of the al Hol camp are suffering from a lack of services amid an outbreak of coronavirus among displaced Syrians and Iraqi refugees inside the camp.

There have been 19 identified and isolated COVID cases, with two deaths, according to Jaber Mustafa, head of the relations office in al Hol camp.

Nevertheless, the security situation has improved considerably after Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an operation inside the camp.

It began on 28 March 2021 and the Kurdish-led forces said nearly 5,000 fighters participated.   

  

It resulted in the arrest of 125 members of Islamic State group sleeper cells inside the camp, including at least 20 believed implicated in killings inside al Hol.

  

There have been 47 killings in al Hol since the start of 2021.

This number has reduced to one murder and one suicide attempt since the beginning of April, according to Jaber Mustafa.

The slayings at the camp are largely believed to have been carried out by IS group militants punishing perceived enemies and intimidating anyone who wavers from their extremist line.

That's according to the Syrian Kurdish officials who run the camp but say they struggle to keep it under control.  

The al Hol camp houses over 59,000 people, including wives and children of IS group members, and US officials say it has become a breeding ground for the next generation of the Islamic State group.  

Al Hol camp, east of Hasaka, witnessed an influx of large numbers of displaced people and refugees from areas that were under the control of the Islamic State group during the SDF attack against its last strongholds in 2019.

The Syrian Kurdish-led forces and the US-led coalition announced victory against IS in March 2019, after the militants lost all their territorial holdings.

Thousands escaped into the desert while others were detained and held in detention facilities.

More than 80% of the camp's residents are women and children, two-thirds of them under the age of 12. The majority are Syrian and Iraqi but about 10,000 are from 57 other countries.

AP
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