U.N. chief: Yarmouk camp now ‘deepest circle of hell’ in Syria

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called for action to prevent a massacre of Palestinian refugees

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The U.N. secretary-general says the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus that has been overrun by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group fighters is “the deepest circle of hell” in Syria’s four-year horror.

Ban Ki-moon told reporters Thursday that “a refugee camp is beginning to resemble a death camp.

“What is unfolding in Yarmouk is unacceptable,” Ban told reporters at U.N. headquarters.

“We simply cannot stand by and watch a massacre unfold.”

About 18,000 people, mostly Palestinians, are trapped in the fighting between ISIS fighters, government forces and other rebel groups, and suffering from food shortages and lack of medical aid.

“A refugee camp is beginning to resemble a death camp,” Ban warned.

The refugees, including 3,500 children, have been “turned into human shields,” with armed fighters inside the camp and government forces outside, he said.

The U.N. chief called for an end to the fighting, access to deliver humanitarian aid and safe passage for refugees who wish to escape safely.

Countries that have influence on the Damascus regime and armed groups on the ground must send the message that civilians must be spared, Ban added.

His appeal echoed that of the Security Council which earlier this week demanded access for life-saving aid to the camp and said it was ready to consider further measures to provide assistance.

Jihadists from ISIS attacked the camp, just seven kilometers (four miles) from central Damascus, on April 1, compounding an already desperate situation for the refugees who had been under government siege for two years.

“In the horror that is Syria, the Yarmuk refugee camp is the deepest circle of hell,” Ban said.

A group of 14 Palestinian factions said they were ready to stage a joint military action with Syrian forces to expel ISIS fighters from the camp following talks in Damascus.

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