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PLO aid convoy to Yarmouk 'fired upon' while entering camp

Jan. 13, 2014 6:22 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 14, 2014 12:10 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian activists from inside Syria's besieged Yarmouk refugee camp said that PLO supply trucks loaded with medicine and food were unable to enter the camp after shells were fired at them Monday.

Six truckloads of aid prepared by the PLO had been prepared to enter Yarmouk camp under UNRWA auspices earlier on Monday, but activists said that the attack on the convoy prevented the aid from reaching the camp.

The trucks were fired upon in the al-Buwayda area and subsequently were forced to return to al-Sabiena area.

It was unclear who was firing upon the trucks, but in the past both anti-regime groups like al-Nusra front as well as pro-regime groups like PFLP-GC have acted to undermine attempts to lift the siege on the camp.

Ma'an attempted to contact PLO delegation members to get an official confirmation, but there was no response.

The attack comes a day after attempts to transfer relief supplies were similarly thwarted due to fighting at the entrance of the camp.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Ma'an on Sunday, "There is profound civilian suffering in Yarmouk with widespread incidence of 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."

"The unending armed conflict brings death and inflicts serious injuries on Yarmouk residents in addition to the extreme deprivation of living a trapped existence," he added.

"I emphasize that the imperative remains 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."

On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that 41 Palestinians had died so far as a result of food and medicine shortages.

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.

Fatah leader Abbas Zaki told Ma'an in October that Yarmouk's population of 250,000 had dwindled to 18,000 after two and a half years of conflict in Syria.

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.

More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants -- were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.
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