An estimated 3,500 Palestinians have fled the embattled Yarmouk refugee camp during a week of violence, according to the UN, as the Syrian government escalates its ongoing military operation in southern Damascus.
Yarmouk, which has been besieged by the Syrian government and opposition groups since 2013, was once home to nearly 200,000 people, mostly Palestinian refugees, Syrians and others.
“Those stark figures tell their own tragic story, of the destruction of a once thriving refugee community, now reduced to abject, untold suffering,” Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for UNRWA, the body responsible for Palestinian refugees, told Al Jazeera.
Yarmouk camp is being bombed by Assad for the past 3 days. Assad, who is anti-imperialist/anti-israel, is bombing Palestinian refugees and destroying their homes with Russian equipment. Funny, isn’t it? No. pic.twitter.com/mXfnwMU4nm
— Sarah Hunaidi (@SaraHunaidi) April 22, 2018
On April 19, the Syrian government and allied armed groups, including some Palestinian factions, launched a renewed military offensive targeting Yarmouk and surrounding areas citing the presence of fighters.
Among the fighters present in Yarmouk are those from ISIS, and Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra.
As of Friday, at least 31 people had been killed over a week of intensified violence, according to the UK-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria.
Inside the camp, there are currently no hospitals or medical facilities operating, the Action Group said, adding that up to 60 percent of Yarmouk has been destroyed.
This is what the Palestinian Yarmouk camp near Damascus looks like after one week of bombardment by the Syrian army and its allies. pic.twitter.com/AUXRce4EIn
— Khaled Abu Toameh (@KhaledAbuToameh) April 28, 2018
“We are calling on all sides in this conflict to take measures to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure,” UNRWA’s Gunness said.
“And we are asking that civilians, the wounded, the sick who want to leave to have safe passage. We also urgently need humanitarian access to distribute assistance.”
Gunness further said that armed groups and government forces should respect “international law … at all times”.
Before the war in Syria broke out in March 2011, about 560,000 Palestinian refugees, who were originally displaced from their homeland during Israel’s 1948 establishment, lived in camps, cities and towns across the country.
Locals in southern Damascus are reporting that the Russians are bombing w/ a new type of missile previously unseen in Syria. Civilians are trapped under the rubble in Yarmouk & local rescue forces are unable to help them. pic.twitter.com/bjYc4CrbWn
— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) April 29, 2018
UNRWA estimates that more than 120,000 Palestinians have been displaced yet again, some of them multiple times.
(Aljazeera, PC, Social Media)