Besieged Yarmouk Camp in Syria Finally Gets Some Food

UN warned Friday that impeding humanitarian assistance to civilians in desperate need may amount to a war crime.

The Associated Press
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The Associated Press

Food aid began entering the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria on Saturday for the first time in four months, according to officials in the camp and Syrian state media said.

The delivery was made possible after an agreement was reached on Friday between representatives of Palestinian factions and Syrian rebels in the camp.

Anwar Raja, a spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, said the first batch of supplies entered the Yarmouk camp on Saturday.

Yarmouk, south of Damascus, is the largest of the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, where more than 160,000 refugees lived until December 2012. Most have now fled the camp after armed rebel groups entered it, provoking retaliation from Syrian troops.

Palestinian and United Nations reports said around 18,000 people remained in the camp, which came under Syrian army siege in September.

Yarmouk is one of the areas hardest hit by food shortages in Syria. Food aid has not been delivered to the camp since September. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that 54 people have died in the camp since then from hunger or lack of medical care.

Raja had no immediate word on how many supplies entered the camp. He said much of the material was carried "on the shoulders" of PFLP-GC members and committees in the camp.

PFLP-GC members are fighting against Syrian opposition fighters who control most of the camp.

On Friday, United Nations human rights head Navi Pillay warned that blocking aid to Yarmuk could be a war crime. "Impeding humanitarian assistance to civilians in desperate need may amount to a war crime," she said in a statement.

"Government forces and affiliated militias appear to be imposing collective punishment on the civilians in Yarmuk," Pillay added.

Syrian state media also reported the delivery, citing a second Palestinian official.
Yarmuk has been largely under the control of opposition forces for months and government troops have imposed a suffocating siege that was tightened in September.

A Palestinian woman in Ramallah demonstrates for food aid to the Yarmouk camp.Credit: AP