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Refugees in Syria face food and medicine shortages amid regime shelling

IS-controlled Yarmouk has been subjected to regime shelling for years [File photo: Getty]

Date of publication: 19 April, 2018

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Conditions inside Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus are "rapidly deteriorating", UNWRA said on Wednesday.
Palestinian refugees living near the Syrian capital are struggling to survive in "rapidly deteriorating" conditions, the UN said on Wednesday, as the regime prepared an offensive to capture the area.

Conditions in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus are worsening, with little food, no running water or doctors, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides aid to Palestinian refugees, said.

Forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are preparing to capture the area, which has been under the control of Islamic State extremists since 2015, with shelling heard overnight on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

"The humanitarian situation in Yarmouk and surrounding areas has long been very harsh and is rapidly deteriorating," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said, referring to Syria’s biggest camp for Palestinian refugees since the mid-20th century.

"Supplies of food and medicine are running low. There is no running water and very little electricity. Healthcare options are limited and there are no doctors remaining in the area."

Taking control of Yarmouk and other areas surrounding Damascus would give Assad complete control over the capital, further consolidating his grip on power.

UNRWA said refugees in Yarmouk camp make up about half of some 12,000 civilians trapped in the area.

Checkpoints into the camp have been closed for most of the last month, cutting off its lifeline, Gunness said.

"Things were appalling even before this current upsurge of violence," he said, calling for more access to distribute aid and to evacuate people who wish to leave.

The camp was home to some 160,000 Palestinians before the Syrian conflict began in 2011, those who were expelled or fled during the establishment of Israel in 1948 in the events of the Nakba.

Syria is home to 12 Palestinian refugee camps, three of them unofficial. Last month, Action Aid for Palestinians in Syria said almost 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in Syria's war as the country's fragile stateless minority struggles to survive in the deadly seven-year conflict.

Since being seized by IS, Yarmouk has been a target of multiple regime bombing and shelling campaigns. 

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