Yarmouk still suffers from restrictions to safe water and food

DAILY SABAH WITH REUTERS
Istanbul
Published 17.04.2016 21:23
Updated 17.04.2016 21:24
A man walks between damaged buildings in Yarmouk refugee camp, located in a Damascus suburb.
A man walks between damaged buildings in Yarmouk refugee camp, located in a Damascus suburb.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said that 10,000 residents of Yarmouk are still unable to reach water and food. DAESH, the Syrian regime and other opposition groups still battle for control over the camp

The United Nations said on Saturday civilians faced starvation and dehydration in a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, where DAESH is battling other opposition groups for control. U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) which aids Palestinian refugees across the region said it estimated up to 10,000 civilians were trapped in their homes in Yarmouk, which is on the southern outskirts of Damascus. "Whatever supplies of food and water they had have long been exhausted. Given the frequently intense fighting, the overwhelming risk of serious injury and death prevents civilians from leaving their homes to search for food, fetch water, or seek medical treatment for injuries," UNRWA said in a statement. "Credible reports from inside Yarmouk indicate extensive, deliberate fire-damage to homes and other civilian buildings on a scale hardly seen before. The precarious security situation also prevents UNRWA from continuing its humanitarian missions to the adjacent area of Yalda," it said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based organization that reports on the war, says most of Yarmouk camp is now under the control of DAESH. UNRWA said: "The fighting has been intense, and is taking place in the most densely populated areas of Yarmouk, with the use of heavy weapons, explosive devices and weapons of indiscriminate effect."

Yarmouk, an unofficial refugee camp, is a district of Syria's capital, Damascus and was established in 1957 when thousands of Palestinians were displaced by Israel. The camp has become one of the strongholds of the pro- Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the last few decades and has therefore established better relations with the Syrian regime. After the clashes started in 2011, the camp residents, suffering from poverty, were subjected to fierce battles between the groups loyal to the regime and the opposition groups. The regime has not avoided bombing its residents and cutting supply lines for food and water. At least 166 camp residents, including dozens of babies, have starved to death in recent years as the regime did not allow the influx of humanitarian aid materials. Thus, the victims of the Arab-Israeli wars became victims of the civil war. The besieged Yarmouk camp is located on the outskirts of Damascus, home to the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria. Before the Syrian war erupted in 2011, it accommodated more than 180,000 Palestinian refugees. However, due to severe security conditions, around 140,000 refugees have been internally displaced as a result of the war. The recent reports state that over 18,000 civilians trapped in the camp have been suffering from desperate humanitarian conditions, without access to basics. UK-based Action Group for Palestinians in Syria said that of the more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees who lived in the country before the uprising, more than 50,000 have fled and another 3,200 have been killed.

The Arab uprisings, which euphorically swept across the Middle East and North Africa several years ago, appealed to Syrians who had lived under the dictatorship of the Assad family since 1970, when Bashar's father Hafiz Assad seized power. Since then, the majority Sunnis were forced to live in a police state that tried to control every movement, organization and business through the use of a wide-ranging intelligence service. In March 2011, Syrians were emboldened enough to raise their voices against the dictatorship. However, the regime's response was not as peaceful as the protests, and the country was subsequently dragged into a deadly civil war after opposition groups took up arms against the government. The Syrian civil war has now entered its fifth year and has caused the death of more than 200,000 people and at least 60,000 are missing. The war has also displaced nearly 10 million people. While the international and regional powers continue endless discussions, the regime does not just use conventional weapons, but also chemical weapons. About 13.6 million people, equivalent to the population of London, have been displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq, many without food or shelter, the U.N. refugee agency revealed. The 13.6 million include 7.2 million displaced within Syria – an increase from a long-held U.N. estimate of 6.5 million, as well as 3.3 million Syrian refugees abroad, 1.9 million displaced in Iraq and 190,000 who have left to seek safety. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have gone to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Western countries have been frequently criticized by aid agencies and the U.N. for not opening their borders to the Syrian refugees as the most developed countries have received the least number of refugees.

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