STATEMENT BY SAMI MSHASHA/CHRIS GUNNESS
UNRWA is again warning of the catastrophic consequences of the severe escalation of fighting affecting the Palestine refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus and surrounding areas.
“Yarmouk and its inhabitants have endured indescribable pain and suffering over years of conflict. We are deeply concerned about the fate of thousands of civilians, including Palestine refugees, after more than a week of dramatically increased violence,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl.
The current hostilities have caused deaths and injuries and have displaced around five thousand Palestine refugees from Yarmouk into the neighboring area of Yalda. There are also an unconfirmed number of civilians stranded in Yarmouk, who are in dire need of safe passage from the camp. Those families who managed to take refuge in Yalda have been forced to sleep in the streets or in makeshift shelters.
The intense bombing and shelling has reportedly damaged thousands of homes. There is no more running water and very little electricity. Yarmouk’s last hospital is now no longer functional. There are no doctors remaining and healthcare options for those still in Yarmouk are severely limited if at all existent. The checkpoint into the area is closed to civilians and goods.
UNRWA repeats its urgent appeal to all parties involved in the fighting to exercise maximum restraint to ensure that civilians are spared from the violence, and that measures are taken to prevent unnecessary damage to civilian infrastructure. We call for the immediate granting of safe passage for civilians wishing to leave the camp and surrounding areas and for the evacuation of the injured, the sick and the elderly. International humanitarian law must be respected at all times.
“UNRWA stands ready to provide urgently needed assistance to the population in and around Yarmouk, as soon as the security situation permits and access is granted, Mr. Krähenbühl underlined.