UNRWA chief con­cerned about civil­ians trapped at Yar­mouk camp

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A U.N. agency chief said Sun­day he was deeply con­cerned for civil­ians stuck in a Da­m­as­cus refugee camp af­ter it was stormed by the ex­trem­ist Is­lamic State (IS) group.

“We re­main very wor­ried for refugees and civil­ians in­side Yar­mouk,” Pierre Kra­hen­buhl, who heads the U.N. agency for Pales­tinian refugees UNRWA, said in Da­m­as­cus.

“We are very determined to pro­vide as­sis­tance to those who have de­cided tem­po­rar­ily to leave the camp and find shel­ter else­where,” he added.

On April 1, IS launched an as­sault on Yar­mouk, which was once a home to 160,000 Pales­tini­ans and Syr­i­ans but now has fewer than 18,000 res­i­dents.

The camp has seen vi­o­lent clashes be­tween pro-regime and op­po­si­tion forces since 2012, and has en­dured a suf­fo­cat­ing army siege since 2013.

Kra­hen­buhl spoke while vis­it­ing a school in the south­ern Da­m­as­cus neigh­bor­hoods of Tada­mon, where dis­placed Pales­tini­ans from Yar­mouk have sought refuge.

“It was of ut­most im­por­tance for me to meet th­ese peo­ple face to face, as an act of sol­i­dar­ity and sup­port. Ev­ery con­flict has a hu­man face,” he said.

“The peo­ple of Syria’s mer­ci­less con­flict are in­di­vid­u­als, each with a dig­nity and des­tiny that must be re­spected and nur­tured. The world com­mu­nity can­not aban­don them in their hour of need,” he added.

Kra­hen­buhl said UNRWA was “determined” to bring aid to Pales­tini­ans who have fled to Yalda and Ba­bila, two neigh­bor­hoods on the out­skirts of Yar­mouk.

Since the “dra­matic changes” brought about by the IS as­sault on Yar­mouk, “the fo­cus is on how to pro­vide as­sis­tance for peo­ple in­side,” he said.

“We are also think­ing about how we can we im­prove the abil­ity for peo­ple who wish to leave tem­po­rar­ily to come out safely and to re­ceive as­sis­tance.”

More than 200 peo­ple have been killed since the be­gin­ning of the gov­ern­ment’s siege on Yar­mouk, in­clud­ing dozens who died of hunger.

Kra­hen­buhl ar­rived in Da­m­as­cus on Satur­day on an “ur­gent mission” to dis­cuss aid to civil­ians flee­ing the vi­o­lence in Yar­mouk.

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