UNRWA chief concerned about civilians trapped at Yarmouk camp
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.