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Life for Palestine refugees in Syria 'untenable'

March 20, 2015 1:14 P.M. (Updated: March 21, 2015 7:38 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency on Thursday said life for Palestinian refugees in Syria is becoming increasingly unsustainable, as reports suggest nine refugees drowned in March trying to reach Europe by boat.

UNRWA said that the nine believed killed were part of a group of over 59 Palestinians, the majority fleeing conflict in Syria. Some of the refugees were also from Gaza and Lebanon, the statement added.

"The conflict has overwhelmed Palestine refugee communities in Syria, with a widespread disrespect for international law and the protection of civilians," UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said.

"In Gaza, the effects of the occupation, blockade and recurring military campaigns have devastated not only Palestine refugee homes, lives and income, but also hope for a secure and dignified future. In Lebanon, where Palestine refugees are already socially and economically marginalized, the strain of Lebanon's refugee load has pushed Palestine refugees into destitution and desperation."

The latest tragedies stem from a fundamental failure to resolve the Palestinian refugee issue, in addition to armed conflict and occupation, Gunness added.

"UNRWA appeals for an urgent increase in this indispensable assistance, calls for full compliance with obligations under international law and the protection of those fleeing conflict, and stresses the ever-more urgent need for political solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli and Syrian conflicts so that Palestine refugees can again build for a dignified and secure future."

In December, the Palestinian Embassy in Syria said at least 1,300 Palestinian refugees had been killed in the Syria conflict, with the same number reported missing.

Another 2,000 or so Palestinians are also thought to be imprisoned in regime jails.

At least 200 Palestinian refugees have starved to death since Syrian regime forces tightened a siege around the Yarmouk refugee camp in 2013, with Human Rights Watch accusing Assad's government of "committing war crimes by using starvation of civilians as a weapon of war."

The Syrian conflict, which began as peaceful protests in March 2011 but developed into civil war, has killed more than 200,000 people and prompted millions to flee their homes.

Prior to the conflict, up to 600,000 Palestinian refugees lived in Syria, though the UN's Palestine refugee agency UNRWA estimates that more than half have been forced to leave their homes in Syria due to violence in the country.
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