Syrian officials are set to meet at any time with United Nations relief agency leaders to attempt to find a solution that brings relief to thousands of refugees in Yarmouk, cut off from the world by Isalmic jihadists. UN representatives, including Peter Krahenbuhl with an agency that helps Palestinian refugees called United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), headed to Syria this weekend to discuss humanitarian aid.
Some 18,000 people that include 3,500 children are living in the destruction of Yarmouk. Yarmouk is four miles from Damascus and is the country’s largest refugee camp. Refugees have been living in terrible conditions throughout the four years of Syria’s civil war, with the last two years under a blockade initiated by the Bashar al-Assad government. Suffering increased dramatically once ISIS attacked Yarmouk on April 1 with the area completely cut off. There is little news coming out of the enclave, but rumors are that ISIS had beheaded some captives. Other reports are that some – amounting to a few hundred people – have escaped in recent days.
The state Palestinian news agency reported that the area’s only hospital was hit in the attack and three medical workers were injured. The agency reported that 90 percent of the camp is now controlled by ISIS militants.
Yarmouk is described as a “living hell” with hundreds dying from a lack of food, water and sickness. Most people are barely surviving on food that consists of around 400 calories a day, according to officials. Syrian aid workers are doing what they can to smuggle the extremely sick and dying out. Syrian and relief workers from the United Nations are discussing other ways to get the extremely sick and injured refugees out of Yarmouk and get them medical relief.
A number of factions are fighting ISIS and jihadists’ positions have been bombarded by the Syria’s air force, but experts said it would take a large-scale military operation to drive the militants out. In the beginning, Palestinian groups supported joining forces to drive ISIS out, even though many of those factions oppose each other and the Syrian government. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) later opposed the idea for unknown reasons.
Meanwhile, there is no relief from war for the thousands living in the Syrian refugee camp of Yarmouk. The area was pummeled with at least six air strikes and 23 barrel bombs in a week.
The UN Security Council decided to intervene after its emergency meeting held last Monday. Pictures and details revealed in the closed-door briefing led officials to call the situation “completely catastrophic” and “beyond humanity.” Krahenbruhl will talk with some displaced refugees at an area near the camp this weekend. He is also scheduled to meet with a United Nations special envoy to discuss the situation. Krahenbruhl is limited to the help he offers because he is not meeting with ISIS representatives and pinpointing leaders to pressure for humanitarian aid is difficult.
Those working with UNRWA are urging those at the UN with any communication with fighting factions to pressure them to cease war in order for humanitarian deliveries of food, water and medicine to be sent to Yarmouk.
While no immediate solutions are at hand, Krahenbruhl said a real solution would need to involve the entire international community. The outcome of the meeting between Syrian and United Nations officials is uncertain, even though relief agency workers are hoping it will result in help for Yarmouk refugees.
By Melody Dareing
Photo by Henry Patton – Flickr license