Syria's Yarmouk refugees plan peaceful rallies against militant groups

Published April 22nd, 2014 - 02:05 GMT

Residents of Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp plan to organize peaceful rallies to pressure armed groups to leave the area, a Fatah official said Tuesday.

Muhammad Abu al-Qasim, a foreign relations official of the Fatah movement, told Ma'an Tuesday that "a large number of people will march toward the bases of armed groups to force them to leave the camp."

Palestinian factions in Yarmouk have made extended efforts to end the humanitarian crisis in the Damascus-based camp, but have had no success, al-Qasim said.

He said thousands of Palestinian refugees were waiting for food parcels, which have not been regularly delivered due to fighting in the camp.

After rebels seized control of the Palestinian refugee camp in December 2012, the camp became embroiled in the armed fighting taking place across Syria and came under heavy regime assault.

Regime forces eventually encircled the camp and in July imposed a siege on the camp, leading to a rapid deterioration of living conditions.

Fatah leader Abbas Zaki told Ma'an in mid-October that Yarmouk's population of 250,000 had dwindled to 18,000 after two and a half years of conflict in Syria.

All non-Palestinian militant factions agreed to leave Yarmouk on Feb. 11 in a deal to allow humanitarian aid to the camp, whose residents were dying of hunger and disease. Within weeks, however, various militant groups re-positioned themselves in the camp.

The UN Agency for Palestine refugees has managed to deliver sporadic shipments of humanitarian aid to Yarmouk since January, in between periods of fighting in the camp.

The Syrian conflict, which began as peaceful protests in March 2011 but developed into a civil war, has killed more than 150,000 people and prompted millions to flee their homes.

More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants -- were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.

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