Middle East

Syria's besieged Yarmuk gets UN aid after two-week halt

BEIRUT: The UN Palestinian refugee agency on Tuesday resumed food distribution in the besieged Yarmuk camp in Damascus after a two-week halt.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said aid workers distributed 465 food parcels in addition to bread and jam, as well as 2,000 doses of polio vaccines and 800 small cartons of baby formula.

The Palestinian refugee camp, a bustling built-up suburb of 170,000 before the war, is today home to 18,000 Palestinian refugees and thousands of Syrians, all of whom have been under a tight army siege since July 2013.

Yarmuk was the scene of a widely-shared photo taken by UNRWA showing thousands of people packed into a destroyed street awaiting food aid.

"Set against the substantial civilian needs and the protracted closure of Yarmuk, the modest supplies we have taken in are not enough," Gunness said.

"We require secure, substantial and sustained humanitarian access as the Security Council has unanimously requested, and call on all concerned parties to ensure the establishment and maintenance of conditions that facilitate full access to Yarmuk."

Amnesty International last week said the Syrian army was using starvation as a "weapon of war" in its siege of Yarmuk, where it said nearly 200 people have died since the tightening of the siege, including 128 who starved to death.

It said Yarmuk was the deadliest of several blockades set up of civilian areas across the country, some by the army and some by Syrian rebels.

An estimated 146,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the start of Syria's uprising three years ago.





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