Pro-Palestine campaigners urge UK government to act on Yarmouk crisis

Marwan Sultan in London , Friday 10 Apr 2015

A grave humanitarian crisis has further worsened, since Islamic State militants entered the Damascus Palestinian refugee camp last week

Pro-Palestine campaigners have urged the UK government to take immediate action to allow humanitarian aid to reach the inhabitants of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Syria.

"Our government has an urgent responsibility to act to end the suffering of the people of Yarmouk by insisting that all parties allow the entry of much needed aid, and by upholding human rights and international law," the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) stated on Thursday.

An already grave humanitarian crisis in the Damascus suburb following a two-year siege by Syrian government forces has further worsened over the last week, after the Islamic State (IS) militant group entered the camp on April 3.

Anti-government Palestinian militiamen and Free Syrian Army fighters are said to be fighting off the IS militants, who reportedly entered the camp with the support of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusrah.

The situation for civilians inside Yarmouk as “beyond inhumane", according to United Nations' Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) spokesperson Chris Gunness.

The UN agency had very little access to the camp, leaving its about 1,800 Palestinian refugee and Syrian inhabitants, including 3,500 children, without any UN food, water or medicine, he told the media on Tuesday.

Founded in 1957, the Yarmouk camp was home to nearly 150,000 Palestinian refugees prior to the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011.Today, most have fled to other parts of Syria or neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan.

The UK has expressed its “deep concern over the terrible situation in the Yarmouk refugee camp".

“We condemn in the strongest terms the grave crimes committed by IS and Jabhat al-Nusrah against civilians in the camp,” the UK Foreign Office said in a statement on Tuesday, calling on all parties “to protect civilians, ensure humanitarian access to the area, and allow the safe passage and evacuation of civilians.”

The UK government has said it has committed £800 million ($1.200bn) in humanitarian funding to provide support, including food, shelter, and medical care and clean drinking water, for hundreds of thousands of people affected by the Syrian conflict, both inside Syria and for refugees.

Beyond humanitarian aid in Yarmouk, PSC believes that there should be on a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis.

"Palestinians in Yarmouk are unable to return to their homeland because Israel denies them that right, granted to them by UN Resolution 194,” states PSC.

Most of the Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk are originally from the northern part of Palestine, mainly from Haifa, Safad and Jaffa, according to PSC.

PSC called on the international community to press Israel, through sanctions, to abide by international law, end the occupation and the siege on Gaza, and allow all Palestinian refugees, including those in Yarmouk, the right to return to their homes in Palestine.

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