Starving Yarmouk residents demand humanitarian aid

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HUNGER GAMES: Families, activists and aid workers in Yarmouk pleaded for the entrance of humanitarian aid to the camp during a sit-in on Tuesday as they face the reality of Islamic State rule and more than two years of blockade around the camp.

“We demand the entrance of aid to Yarmouk camp and not [only] to Yelda,” reads the white banner in the background, referring to the distribution of humanitarian aid to the nearby pro-opposition town. 

UNRWA provided humanitarian assistance including food, water, medicine and other supplies to 500 civilians in the south Damascus town of Yelda, many of whom were displaced from Yarmouk during the recent fighting earlier this week, according to the UN agency’s Yarmouk Situation update on Tuesday.

Yelda agreed to a truce with the Assad government over a year ago after months of regime besiegement.

UNRWA and other humanitarian organization have not been able to enter Yarmouk since April 1 when the Islamic State entered, reportedly with the help of Jabhat a-Nusra, and won control of the almost all the camp from Palestinian militias.

The protesters on Monday also called for all residents who had fled the camp during the recent fighting to return, reported the official Turkish Anadolu Agency.

The sit-in comes on the same day that the UNRWA Commisioner-General, Pierre Krahenbuhl, completed the second day of his visit to the camp.

“Yarmouk must be a place where the politics of the possible begin to take hold,” he said in a statement Tuesday following his visit, calling for greater humanitarian access to the camp. 

In related news, Jabhat a-Nusra reportedly circulated a statement saying that they would secure the safe passage of relief convoys into the camp by way of a northern entrance.

The statement could not be independently verified.

An estimated 18,000 civilians still live in Yarmouk camp, roughly 2.1 square kilmoeters and once home to more than 100,000 people before the war. Today, the average person in Yarmouk lives on 400 calories a day, UNRWA said in its statement.

IS controls up to 90 percent of Yarmouk, according to local activists, while Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis—the strongest of several Palestinian brigades in the camp prior to IS’s takeover—maintains a presence inside and has vowed to drive out the Islamic State.  

-April 14, 2015

-Photo courtesy of For Syria's Palestinian Group 

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