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Return to Yarmouk Martyr's Day

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Increasingly the battles inside Yarmouk are being waged from tunnels. Since 1 April, when Da'ish invaded Yamouk, and the government retaliated, at least 18 civilians are reported to have been killed from barrel bombs or from having been caught in cross-fire or shot by snipers. Camp resident report that their greatest fears these days are ISIS snipers and night-time dropped barrel bombs.

As fighting has yet again intensified, the trickle of desperately needed humanitarian aid instantly dried up and residents continue to starve. In mid-2013, approximately 170 Palestinian refugees starved to death when a siege began and has now lasted for nearly 700 days.
All the relief organizations in Yarmouk have now closed down their centers and left the camp. Essentially no medical services remain and six Palestine Hospital staff were recently injured and most of the rest have fled out of fear of Da'ish arriving via tunnels which some claim they can hear being dug. Others claim that since 1 April, at least 18 civilians are reported to have been killed as a result of barrel bombs or from having been caught in cross-fire or shot by snipers, and at least three Palestinian fighters captured by IS forces were beheaded. If they can, Yarmouk residents are fleeing mainly due to fear of increasing numbers of snipers and nighttime barrel bombing.

UNRWA cannot do much given the enormity of the crisis and has repeatedly expressed, so far in vain, strong concern for the security of civilians and has demanded access to those civilians who remain inside Yarmouk. But their courageous staffs and Syrian volunteers have been doing what they can these past several days.

The UN Country Team, representing all UN humanitarian agencies in Syria, was about to arrange this week a 22-truck convoy of critical humanitarian items to Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and with representatives from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Program (WFP), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS) as well as UNWRA. But failed to achieve their goals. Chris Gunness, a UNRWA spokesman, told the Associated Press that the agency has not been able to send any food or convoys into the camp since the recent fighting started. "That means that there is no food, there is no water and there is very little medicine," he said. "The situation in the camp is beyond inhumane. People are holed up in their houses, there is fighting going on in the streets. There are reports of bombardments. This has to stop and civilians must be evacuated."

UNRWA medical personnel did establish a mobile health point in Yalda, treating 325 patients over the course of the day. The team initiated a vaccine campaign, serving 28 children. The UNRWA team also provided food supplies to two community kitchens, sufficient to feed 900 individuals for one week. 1,200 packets of bread were delivered to civilians in Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham. UNRWA missions deliver a broad range of critical humanitarian materials to each of these families, including food, medical supplies, water purification treatments, mattresses, blankets, family kitchen sets and hygiene kits.

UNRWA continues to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilians outside of Yarmouk who remain displaced in Tadamoun, an area on the north-eastern periphery. The Agency is also providing some daily hot lunches for civilians, complemented by regular distribution of canned food.
A Syrian army commander, headquartered on the edge of Yarmouk advised this observer on 6/7/2015 that the Syrian government and UNWRA will relocate hundreds of recently escaped camp residents to secured housing in the coming week.

The Return to Yarmouk campaign announced this week shows potential to become a movement with wide support from the government, civil society and even some militia remnants. It is being led by Yarmouk refugees, some returning from Lebanon.

All people of good will can only hope that this Syrian and Palestinian Martyr's Day effort succeeds and that despite the odds, Return to Yarmouk, will happen soon.



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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)
 

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