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FRIDAY, 25 APR 2014
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Families trapped in Yarmouk and Homs reel under blockade
Residents of Homs carry signs containing a number of grim statistics under siege Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (Yellow covers the besieged area)
Residents of Homs carry signs containing a number of grim statistics under siege Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (Yellow covers the besieged area)
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BEIRUT: A monitoring group said Friday that it had documented the deaths of 63 people, including women and children, in the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus because of food and medical shortages.

Yarmouk in southern Damascus has been under a choking army siege since June, along with several other opposition-held areas across Syria, mostly around the capital and in the central city of Homs.

“The number of people who have died in Yarmouk camp as a result of their poor health and living conditions, and the severe lack of food and medicine has risen to 63,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Rami Abdel-Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Observatory, told AFP “22 of the dead were women, and three were children.”

Activists from the camp reported via social media that three people perished Friday – one was the victim of a sniper and the other two died of hunger and dehydration. The activists did not provide the ages of the victims, but reported Thursday two other deaths, of men aged 55 and 70, from hunger.

Several horrific videos purporting to show emaciated men living in the camp have been posted in recent days on YouTube.

Conditions in the camp have deteriorated in recent months, with the price of food and other basic goods skyrocketing, if they were at all available.

“Sixty-one of the dead lost their lives in the past three months,” said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and doctors inside the country for its reports.

Food aid entered Yarmouk last week for the first time in four months, but activists say the supplies fell far short of the amounts needed.

U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay has warned blocking assistance to civilians “in desperate need may amount to a war crime.”

Activists in other besieged areas of the country have also complained of dismal conditions.

In Homs, activists say hundreds of families have been holed up for nearly 600 days in a handful of districts still held by rebels.

They come under near-daily shelling and activists there say they have run out of most food supplies, and that residents now have little more than olives to survive on.

In a bid to shed light on their situation, activists in Homs launched a campaign this week, putting up yellow signposts inscribed with slogans describing life in the rebel areas.

“For two years, 300 children have had no schooling,” reads one, according to photographs shared by Homs-based activist Yazan.

“One hundred people need urgent surgery,” reads another, held up by a young man on one of Homs’ heavily damaged streets.

In the Eastern Ghouta area east of Damascus, conditions of life are also dire, said activist Tareq al-Dimashqi, who spoke to AFP via Skype.

“No one can provide for themselves, and when food does come in, it is at crazy prices,” he said.

Meanwhile fighting raged across, Syria the Observatory said, as the so-called Geneva II peace talks offered no respite to the war-torn country.

Government troops shelled the Eastern Ghouta area where rebels were battling regime forces backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Iraqi Abul Fadl al-Abbas brigade.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 25, 2014, on page 10.
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Story Summary
A monitoring group said Friday that it had documented the deaths of 63 people, including women and children, in the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus because of food and medical shortages.

Food aid entered Yarmouk last week for the first time in four months, but activists say the supplies fell far short of the amounts needed.

Activists in other besieged areas of the country have also complained of dismal conditions.

In Homs, activists say hundreds of families have been holed up for nearly 600 days in a handful of districts still held by rebels.
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