ISIS clashes in Yarmouk compound suffering of Syria’s Palestinians

The Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus has suffered near constant crisis during Syria's 5-year-long civil war. Besieged since 2013, the camp has also been attacked by both Syrian government bombs and ISIS-linked militants, leaving approximately 5,000 civilians trapped inside today in desperate need of basic humanitarian assistance such as medical aid, food and water.

Last week saw Yarmouk’s woes compounded once again when fighting broke out between ISIS and al-Nusra Front militants, putting civilians in the firing line and further cutting them off from food and water. The Jafra Foundation, a Yarmouk-based human rights organisation, reported that civilians trapped inside the camp had been beheaded by ISIS, and children had been injured by sniper fire in the clashes.

The UN expressed distress and concern about this latest violence, with UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness saying: “Civilians in Yarmouk are facing starvation and dehydration alongside the heightened risks of serious injury and death from the armed conflict.”

Of the approximately 450,000 Palestinians remaining inside Syria, 60 percent are displaced from their homes. A further 110,000 have fled abroad to neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. In these countries Palestinian refugees cannot register with UNHCR and instead rely on UNRWA for healthcare, education and often food and cash support.

Conditions in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps were dire even before the war began in 2011, and UNRWA is struggling to provide adequate services to meet the needs of the roughly 45,000 additional Palestinians who have arrived from Syria. The dismal conditions these refugees meet in Lebanon are causing many to attempt the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to seek safety in Europe.

Civilians in Yarmouk are facing starvation and dehydration alongside the heightened risks of serious injury and death from the armed conflict.

Chris Gunness, UNRWA

Medical Aid for Palestinians was founded in response to the crises facing Palestinians during the Lebanese civil war of the early 1980s. Over 30 years later, MAP’s healthcare projects in Lebanon continue to support the most vulnerable groups, providing psychosocial support for Palestinian children who have encountered traumatic events in Syria. We also help Palestinian refugees from Syria who have serious illnesses such as cancer or heart disease to cover the cost of tertiary healthcare.

Governments such as the UK have mobilised humanitarian assistance to support refugees from Syria, but double-displaced Palestinians are at risk of falling through the gaps in this response. Ultimately, the right of return for Palestinian refugees – as enshrined in UN Resolution 194 – is inalienable, and realisation of this right would provide safe refuge for those fleeing the conflict.

Until such a time as this is possible, MAP is calling on governments to ensure that Palestinian refugees from Syria are granted equal access to all humanitarian assistance, and that they are allowed to access international resettlement programmes.

Click below to sign our petition calling for Palestinian refugees from Syria to be protected.

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Featured image: The situation in Yarmouk Camp has continued to deteriorate. Photo: UNRWA/Rami Al Sayyed

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