UN seeks ac­cess to Pales­tini­ans in Syria af­ter 15 die of hunger

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - BEIRUT—

The United Na­tions ap­pealed on Mon­day for the Syr­ian army and rebel fight­ers to al­low ur­gent aid to reach a Pales­tinian dis­trict of south­ern Damascus where it said 15 peo­ple have died of mal­nu­tri­tion in re­cent months.

U. N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gun­ness said five Pales­tinian refugees died in the Yar­mouk dis­trict over the weekend. Ten oth­ers have died since Septem­ber, the last time the U.N. was able to de­liver aid to Yar­mouk.

“The sit­u­a­tion has pro­gres­sively de­te­ri­o­rated for some 20,000 Pales­tini­ans trapped in­side Yar­mouk,” he told Reuters.

“The con­tin­ued pres­ence of armed groups that en­tered the area at the end of 2012 and its clo­sure by gov­ern­ment forces have thwarted all our hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts.”

Syria is home to half a mil­lion Pales­tini­ans, refugees of the 1948 con­flict which led to the cre­ation of the state of Is­rael. Be­fore the 2011 up­ris­ing against Pres­i­dent Bashar al- As­sad, many of them lived in the Yar­mouk neigh­bor­hood on the south­ern edge of the Syr­ian cap­i­tal.

But the 2011 protests led to a civil war which has driven out most Yar­mouk res­i­dents, forc­ing them once again into home­less­ness. Those that re­main in Yar­mouk have been trapped by the fight­ing for months.

“If this sit­u­a­tion is not ad­dressed ur­gently, it may be too late to save the lives of thou­sands of peo­ple in­clud­ing chil­dren,” Gun­ness said.

“We ur­gently ask all par­ties to im­me­di­ately heed their le­gal obli­ga­tions and fa­cil­i­tate the ur­gent pro­vi­sion of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to Yar­mouk and other Pales­tinian refugee camps where fight­ing im­pedes the de­liv­ery of such as­sis­tance.”

A video up­loaded by ac­tivists on Sun­day showed peo­ple crowded around an UNRWA of­fi­cial, ask­ing about aid de­liv­er­ies. “We just want this sit­u­a­tion to end,” one res­i­dent said. “We want the roads to be open for us, for peo­ple to come in and out safely ... We can’t tol­er­ate it any more.”

Tens of thou­sands of Syr­i­ans are trapped in other be­sieged dis­tricts. In the Mouadamiya sub­urb south­west of Damascus, gov­ern­ment forces and rebel fight­ers agreed a brief truce last week to al­low food to be brought in.—Reuters

Thai po­lice of­fi­cers gather at the Royal Plaza near the Gov­ern­ment House in Bangkok.

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