UNRWA chief heads to Syria on ‘urgent’ Yarmouk aid mission

Rubble and heavy damage remain on a deserted street during a government escorted visit to Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, April 9, 2015. (AP)

The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees is to start an “urgent mission” to Syria on Saturday to discuss aid to civilians in a camp stormed by jihadists, his organization said.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, who heads the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, is to discuss the situation in the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk on the outskirts of the Syrian capital and meet with displaced refugees.

The visit is “prompted by UNRWA’s deepening concerns for the safety and protection of some 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian civilians, including 3,500 children” remaining in the Yarmouk camp, the agency said in a statement.

“Yarmouk remains under the control of armed groups, and civilian lives continue to be threatened by the effects of the armed conflict in the area,” it said.

On April 1, ISIS launched an assault on Yarmouk, Syria’s largest refugee camp that lies seven kilometers south of Damascus.

Armed Palestinian factions have fought back and Syria’s air force has struck ISIS positions in the camp.

Syria’s regime said a military operation would be necessary to expel ISIS from the camp.

The statement was initially supported by Palestinian factions in Syria, but later rejected by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Krahenbuhl, who will meet displaced refugees on Sunday in a school near the camp, will discuss “with the government of Syria... peaceful approaches to addressing the humanitarian consequences of the situation in Yarmouk.”

He will also meet with deputy special envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, who was sent by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday to Damascus.

Since 2012, Yarmouk has seen ongoing clashes between regime forces and Syrian rebels, with Palestinian factions divided and fighting on both sides.

The sprawling district, once home to 160,000 Palestinians as well as Syrians, has endured a suffocating army siege since 2013.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45