BEIRUT

Middle East

Clashes rage around Yarmouk, PLO officials tackle blockade

Palestinian refugees wait to collect aid distributed by the United Nations' UNRWA agency in the al-Ameen neighborhood of Damascus on May 5, 2014, as part of its ongoing distribution of aid supplies to effected Palestinian refugees living in Syria. (AFP PHOTO/YOUSSEF KARWASHAN)

BEIRUT: Clashes raged Monday in the Yarmouk neighborhood in southern Damascus around the Palestinian refugee camp as the latest mediation effort got underway to end the regime blockade of the rebel-held area.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, met with a Palestinian delegation led by PLO officials Zakaria Agha and Ahmad Majdalani, the Palestinian labor minister, state news agency SANA said.

Syrian authorities say that the camp is being “blockaded” by armed groups, while opposition supporters level the same charge at government military forces.

Agha expressed his satisfaction with the “ongoing consultation and coordination” of the Syrian and Palestinian leaderships and “the necessity of seeing the exit of fighters and their organizations” from Yarmouk.

Prior to his trip, Agha had declared the latest visit to the Syrian capital would follow-up on previous meetings to find a solution for deteriorating conditions in the camp, where dozens have died due to malnutrition and lack of medical treatment.

He also stated that “pending issues related to Palestinian refugees, such as those who have been detained and those who have disappeared,” would also be raised during his meetings with Syrian officials.

Fighting between armed groups based in the camp and regime troops claimed the life of one man Monday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group of activists.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness used words such as “frustrating” and “utterly ashamed” in describing the pace of aid distribution over the last two days. He said the distribution was interrupted Monday by a bout of gunfire, which injured a civilian and saw only 162 food parcels passed out to camp residents.

“Only 180 civilian families received food in Yarmouk. I feel utterly ashamed. We all should,” he tweeted, describing Sunday’s aid effort targeting an estimated 40,000 camp inhabitants.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 06, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

Clashes raged Monday in the Yarmouk neighborhood in southern Damascus around the Palestinian refugee camp as the latest mediation effort got underway to end the regime blockade of the rebel-held area.

Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, met with a Palestinian delegation led by PLO officials Zakaria Agha and Ahmad Majdalani, the Palestinian labor minister, state news agency SANA said.

Fighting between armed groups based in the camp and regime troops claimed the life of one man Monday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group of activists.


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