UNRWA Calls for Protection of Yarmouk Civilians as Fighting Escalates

JERUSALEM, May 3, 2015 (WAFA) – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said on Saturday it was increasingly alarmed about the safety of civilians in Yarmouk, amid reports of armed clashes, the use of heavy weapons and air strikes.

“Civilians in the camp went through a night of extreme trauma and distress. We call on the Syrian Government to refrain from using explosive weapons in populated areas, including airborne weapons, whose indiscriminate effects expose civilians to imminent danger and suffering. UNRWA is closely monitoring reports of civilian fatalities and casualties,” said the UNRWA in a statement.

UNRWA said it concerns were heightened since these events follow an earlier night of heavy armed attacks on 27 April, which were condemned by the UN Secretary General. “With families facing unspeakable suffering, we strongly appeal for respect for civilian life and an end to any actions that might further jeopardize the safety of civilians.”

Since the upsurge of violence following the entry of particular armed groups into Yarmouk on 1 April, civilians have faced increased threats and trauma on an epic scale. Thousands have fled the camp and escalating violence to neighboring areas of Damascus where UNRWA teams have been providing critical humanitarian assistance to them.

UNRWA has repeatedly expressed strong concern for the security of civilians and has demanded access to those civilians who remain inside Yarmouk.

It demanded that all armed actors protect civilians in accordance with their obligations under international law, and urged all those with influence over the relevant parties, including armed groups in the camp, to demand that they fully comply with their obligations in relation to the protection of all civilians.

“UNRWA will continue to monitor the situation in Yarmouk closely. At the heart of our mandate is the plight of Palestine refugees. The tragedy of Yarmouk is a reminder of the need always to ensure that Palestine refugees are supported and protected wherever they may be,” concluded the statement.