UN envoys visit Syria on Yarmouk aid mission

UN envoys visit Syria on Yarmouk aid mission
UN is seeking to secure safe passage into Yarmouk camp to deliver much-needed aid. Syrian government weighs military offensive.
2 min read
12 April, 2015
Palestinians in Gaza protest the IS advance into Yarmouk camp [Anadolu]
Two senior UN officials were headed Saturday for Syria on an "urgent mission" to aid thousands of civilians trapped in a beleaguered Palestinian refugee camp on the edge of the capital.


Pierre Krahenbuhl, who heads the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, is to meet Syrian officials to discuss the delivery of aid to the Yarmouk camp which has been stormed by Islamic State group militants.


The visit is "prompted by UNRWA's deepening concerns for the safety and protection of some 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian civilians, including 3,500 children" still in the camp, the agency said in a statement.


     If they open the road, I don't want to stay any more. - Um Mohammad

On 1 April, IS launched an assault on Yarmouk, Syria's largest refugee camp that lies just seven kilometres from central Damascus.


Armed Palestinian factions have fought back and Syria's air force has struck IS positions in the camp.


Syria's regime said a military operation would be necessary to drive out IS. 


Such an operation was initially supported by Palestinian factions in Syria, but later rejected by the Palestine Liberation Organisation.


Krahenbuhl is due to meet displaced refugees on Sunday at a school near the camp.


Also in Damascus, the UNRWA chief is to meet deputy special envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, sent on Friday by UN chief Ban Ki-moon who has warned of a "massacre" in the camp.


Since 2012, Yarmouk has been the scene of clashes between regime forces and Syrian rebels, with Palestinian factions divided and fighting on both sides.


The sprawling district, once home to 160,000 Palestinians as well as Syrians, has also endured a suffocating army siege since 2013.


Yarmouk in pictures


According to Palestinian sources, some 2,500 of the remaining civilians have now taken refuge in Damascus schools.


"I don't have the strength to walk any more," said Umm Mohammed, a woman in her 70s, in a video distributed to media organisations by an activist, Rami el-Sayyed.


"I haven't left my house for fear of it being looted. But if they open the road, I don't want to stay any more," she said.


"We left Palestine and we're still suffering. What did the Palestinians do to deserve all this?"