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Official: Hundreds face imminent death in Yarmouk camp

Jan. 10, 2014 6:00 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 12, 2014 11:08 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the besieged Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus face imminent death in the coming 10 days unless a safe supply line is opened, a Palestinian official told Ma'an Thursday.

Ayman Abu Hasham, director of the Palestinian Refugees Support Network in Syria, said that residents in the camp are eating grass in order to ward off starvation, which he says will kill hundreds if supply lines are not opened soon.

On Thursday, there was an attempt to transfer 300 patients from the camp to receive medical treatment but snipers from the Syrian government fired at them, injuring the director of a relief committee Fuad al-Omar, Abu Hashem said.

"Claims that there are militants in the camp are just to justify the siege," Abu Hashem said.

"According to international law, citizens must be protected by the military force controlling the area -- meaning the Syrian regime."

Any side which undermines initiatives to bring food into the camp are participating in the siege, Abu Hashem said, accusing the PFLP-GC and the Syrian government of blockading the refugee camp.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Ma'an Friday that "the profound civilian suffering in Yarmouk deepens, with reports of widespread malnutrition and the absence of medical care, including for those who have severe conflict-related injuries, and including for women in childbirth, with fatal consequences for some women."

"From a humanitarian perspective, Yarmouk remains closed to humanitarian access and remains a place where extreme human suffering in primitively harsh conditions is the norm for Palestinian and Syrian civilians living there. The imperative remains that that Syrian authorities and other parties must allow and facilitate safe and open humanitarian access into Yarmouk to enable us to assist civilians trapped there."

Electricity and heating have been absent in the camp for nearly one year and there is an infrequent supply of water, Gunness added.

After rebels seized control of Yarmouk in December 2012, the camp became embroiled in the armed fighting taking place across Syria and came under heavy regime assault.

Regime forces eventually encircled the camp and in July imposed a siege on the camp, leading to a rapid deterioration of living conditions.

The Syrian conflict, which began as peaceful protests in March 2011 but developed into a civil war, has killed more than 130,000 people and prompted millions to flee their homes.
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