PLO Official Visits Refugees Shelter on Outskirts of Yarmouk Camp

DAMASCUS, April 7, 2015 (WAFA) – A senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Monday made an inspection visit to an internally-displaced refugees shelter at the outskirts of Yarmouk camp near Damascus.

Following instructions from President Mahmoud Abbas, Head of the PLO’s Political Department Ambassador Anwar ‘Abdulhadi headed to the Zainab al-Hilaliyya School, which is sheltering many Palestinian refugee families that have been evacuated following the recent gun battles raging between ‘Islamic State’ fighters and the camps residents.

According to media reports, Palestinian groups inside Yarmouk are largely surrounded by IS fighters who have taken over large parts of the camp, reportedly 90 percent.

Abdulhadi affirmed President Mahmoud Abbas’ concern about providing protection for civilian population and access to relief corridors and to humanitarian and medical assistance.

He discussed with Office Director of the UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mitsura, Khawla Matar, the situation in the camp and IS criminal acts against civilians.

Abdulhadi demanded that such criminal acts must be internationally denounced and that IS and Nusra Front fighters be forced out of the camp, which would pave the way for displaced residents to return.

Other local media outlets reported that Abdulhadi also discussed with the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad providing safe exit passages to the refugees.

The Syrian top diplomat noted that the Syrian Social Affairs Ministry has been entrusted with setting up temporary shelters.

Commenting on the humanitarian situation in the camp during an interview with Deutsche Welle (DW), Spokesperson for UNRWA, Christopher Gunness, said that 18,000 civilians, including 3,500 children, are caught up in this ‘appalling’ conflict.

“Their lives are threatened. They are holed up in their battered homes too terrified to move which is why we are saying that there must be a pause (in fighting), there must be humanitarian access for groups like UNRWA,” remarked Gunness.

He called on the warring parties to exercise ‘maximum restraint’ so that civilians who wish to leave can be evacuated safely and for further ‘serious’ steps to be taken towards lifting the blockade and the siege of Yarmouk.

Gunness further urged that the global attention which Yarmouk is receiving to be translated into political action. He urged world powers, which he described as ‘the big players’, to “bring the necessary pressures to bear on the parties on the ground, who bring sense.”

Elaborating on this point, Gunness called for the protection of civilians, and providing them with humanitarian access through enabling UNRWA to deliver food, medicine and water, and all meet other needs.

He said the ‘appallingly inhumane conditions are dealt with’ and that ‘people are brought out of this desperate plight that they have been forced under.’

Commenting on the further exacerbating humanitarian situation in the camp, Gunness said: “Things were absolutely inhumane. Yarmouk was a hell hole frankly. And with the eruption of this intense fighting, things got dramatically worse.”

Gunness concluded by calling the United Nations Security Council to convene, expressed hopes that it ‘can start bringing the pressures to bear on all the parties involved’ and further demanded world powers to take ‘concerted political action’.

“And we hope that meaningful diplomatic and political pressure can be brought first of all, to allow a pause, to allow an evacuation of civilians, to allow humanitarian access and then for there to be meaningful steps towards lifting the siege of Yarmouk.”