Palestinian activists: "Bodies on the streets" of Yarmouk

Palestinian activists: "Bodies on the streets" of Yarmouk
Civilians were killed in regime shelling on a Palestinian refugee camp on the edges of the capital.
3 min read
22 April, 2018
Thousands have been displaced from Yarmouk in the last week (Getty)
Five civilians have been killed in 24 hours in regime shelling on a southern district of Syria's capital held by the Islamic State group, a monitor said Sunday.

Syrian troops are waging an intense bombing campaign against Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp on the edge of Damascus, and nearby districts that are held by IS.

An elderly man was killed Sunday in shelling on Yarmouk, and another died after he was wounded in bombardment there the previous day, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A woman, her husband, and their child were killed in shelling in Yarmouk late Saturday, it said.

"This brings to 11 the number of civilians killed since the shelling escalated on Thursday," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The bombing and clashes continued into Sunday, Abdel Rahman said, with air strikes, artillery, and surface-to-surface missiles hitting the neighbourhood.

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), said the bombardment had pushed most Yarmuk residents to flee their homes and put the area's last hospital out of service.

"Since the start of fighting four days ago, most of the 6,000 civilians in Yarmouk camp have been forcibly displaced to the neighbouring area of Yalda," he said.

"The last functioning hospital inside Yarmouk, Palestine Hospital, is now completely unable to operate," Gunness said.

He called on all sides to allow civilians to leave safely, for the sick and wounded to be evacuated, and for safe access for humanitarian workers to distribute food and medicine.

Residents of the besieged Yarmouk camp sent humanitarian calls to the Arab and international organizations and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), to save the civilians under the rubble, and to transfer the victims and ambulate the injured.

"The bodies and body parts are on the streets of the camp and numbers of the injured are uncountable. We were unable to put them in ambulences because of the intensive and continuous bombardments, the communication cuts and the actual absence of medical services," said Palestinian activists from the area. 

"A large number of civilians are still trapped in their houses or cellars. Two of those cellars are under the rubble and we do not know the status of those who were inside them or their numbers."

Yarmouk was once a densely populated and thriving district of the capital, but it has been ravaged by violence since Syria's conflict broke out in 2011.

Syria's government imposed a crippling siege on it in 2012, and fighting among rebels and rival militants has exhausted residents.

In 2015, IS overran most of Yarmouk, and the small numbers of other rebels and militants, including from Al-Qaeda's former affiliate, that had a presence there agreed to withdraw just a few weeks ago.

Simultaneously, the Syrian regime was finishing off the last rebel pockets in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus that had been the opposition's main bastion near the capital.

Securing Eastern Ghouta has allowed the regime to refocus on Yarmouk, but the escalating shelling has sparked worries among humanitarian organisations.