Trapped civilians in Yarmouk are “more desperate than ever” amid fighting in the camp, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said yesterday.
“The situation has been turned upside down. Currently, it is simply too dangerous to access Yarmouk,” said Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General at the UNRWA, as he briefed the press at UN Headquarters in New York via video-link.
“Right now, what is on the mind of people at Yarmouk is bare survival,” he added, recalling his visit to the camp several weeks ago. “I just saw people waking up with so much despair in their eyes, waiting for their meagre assistance.”
Earlier Krähenbühl briefed the secretary-general and Security Council on the unfolding situation in Yarmouk.
He called on all parties to cease activities that put civilians in danger and allow humanitarian access to the area.
Since April 1, Yarmouk has been the scene of intense fighting and it is virtually impossible for civilians to leave.
“Many refugees have been displaced to other areas in Damascus – temporary shelters, schools and our compounds,” Krähenbühl said. “This is highly complicated especially in an environment that is increasingly dangerous.”
Ban personally frustrated
Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the official “has increasingly voiced his personal frustration” over the situation is Yarmouk, “and I think he will continue to do that.”
He added: “UNRWA demands that all parties exercise maximum restraint and abide by their obligations under international law to protect civilians. It also demands humanitarian access and the establishment of secure conditions under which we can deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance and that enable civilians to evacuate safely.”
When asked whether any of the UN member states could influence the Islamic State (ISIS), Dujarric said: “I think there are many Member States that can bring influence to bear on all of the parties involved in this conflict.”
UNSC calls for humanitarian access to Yarmouk
The UN Security Council yesterday demanded humanitarian access to Yarmouk.
“The members call for the protection of civilians in the camp [and] for ensuring humanitarian access to the area, including by providing life-saving assistance and ensuring the safe passage and evacuation of civilians,” Jordan’s UN ambassador Dina Kawar, who chairs the 15-member Security Council, told reporters after a meeting on the issue.