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Protests about Yarmouk starvation spread across Palestine, Jordan

A range of items , as  the plight of Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk camp is attributed to various agecies, from Assad’s regime, through Palestinian factionalism to, as a backdrop, Israel. Notably, the Yarmouk crisis has inspired Palestinian support and protest across the oPt.

1) Al Ahram: Emaciated Yarmouk camp victims attract world attention;
2) Washington Post: Starvation reported at Palestinian camp in Syria;
3) CS Monitor: Palestinians rally for besieged brethren in Syria’s Yarmouk camp;
4) Al Akhbar: Yarmouk – A Palestinian Responsibility;
5) MEMO: Children in Gaza demand protection for the starving children in Yarmouk refugee camp;
6) Al Ahram: Hamas urges militants to leave Damascus camp;
7) CNN: Palestinian refugees starving to death in Syrian camp, human rights groups say;
8 – Xinhua news: Syrian rebels fire on aid convoy to Palestinian refugee camp;
9) Notes and links , Statement from UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness;


A Palestinian woman carries a banner and a piece of bread with Arabic writing that reads, ‘relief them,’ during a protest in solidarity with the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Spokesman Chris Gunness of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, says there is ‘profound civilian suffering’ in Yarmouk’. Photo by Nasser Nasser/AP

Emaciated Yarmouk camp victims attract world attention

Grassroots Palestinian campaign puts focus on dire conditions in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, demanding immediate action

By Nadeen Shaker, Al Ahram
January 12, 2014

Jordanian and Palestinian children shout slogans in support of Palestinian refugees under seige in Syria’s main refugee camp Yarmouk in Damascus for over 170 days due to the ongoing violence in Syria, during a solidarity sit-in front of the Red Cross offices in Amman 4 January, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

A series of solidarity protests and rallies were held Saturday aimed at ending a siege on a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria.

Protesters in the occupied Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Algeria, Canada, Germany and France gathered under the banner of “Save Yarmouk Camp”, a campaign that aims to “save the camp and its people from siege, hunger and murder,” according to its Facebook page.

Yarmouk Refugee Camp, located on the outskirts of Damascus, is home to 148,500 Palestinian refugees since 1957.

Tweets by Palestinian activist Mariam Barghouti indicated that Palestinian youth had attempted to close down the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) headquarters in Ramallah. Later, Barghouti tweeted: “PLO HQ closed as demanded by youth in Yarmouk Refugee Camp, demanding more action from them.”

Living conditions in the camp have become dire, especially after the Syrian army laid siege on towns and neighbourhoods captured by Syrian rebels.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the deaths of 41 Palestinians in the camp due to malnutrition and a dearth of medical aid.


A Palestinian man at a protest in solidarity with the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Jan. 14th, 2014, photo by Nasser Nasser AP.

According to an Al-Jazeera report, women have died in labour and many residents have resorted to eating animal feed in the absence of food aid.

Pictures of emaciated, scrawny bodies, victims in the besieged camp, filled social networks and the campaign’s pages Saturday.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) called for immediate intervention and for a humanitarian corridor to be opened.

Save Yarmouk Camp was founded by a Palestinian activist group from the occupied Palestinian territories and abroad called Qawum (Resist).

“We reject the political harassment of the organisation and will continue to reject the PLO, and we will continue with our actions until the siege on the camp is lifted,” one of the organisers told Ahram Online.

The campaign has attracted worldwide media attention, organisers say.



“We demand neutralizing Palestinian Refugees from the Syrian internal conflict”. Protest outside the UNRWA office. There have also been demonstrations outside the International Committee of the Red Cross

Starvation reported at Palestinian camp in Syria

By Liz Sly and Ahmed Ramadan, Washington Post
January 15, 2014

BEIRUT — Disturbing images of emaciated children and elderly people who appear to have died of hunger are emerging from a Palestinian refugee camp on the edge of Damascus, where thousands are at risk of starvation after months of living under siege, U.N. officials and camp residents said Tuesday.

The growing concern for the welfare of residents of the Yarmouk camp comes ahead of a major international conference in Kuwait on Wednesday aimed at raising a record $6.5 billion for U.N. efforts to aid suffering Syrians inside and outside their war-ravaged country.

But although the United Nations is feeding more than 3.8 million people in Syria, those most in need are not being reached because of the complicated dynamics of the battlefield. Fighters loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad surround numerous rebel-held neighborhoods, notably in the suburbs of Damascus, and refuse to allow access to food or medical aid as part of what U.S. and other Western leaders have repeatedly described as a policy of deliberate obstruction.

U.N. officials say they are especially alarmed at the reports of a growing number of deaths emanating from Yarmouk, just a few miles from the heart of Damascus, the capital.

“There is profound civilian suffering in Yarmouk, with widespread incidence of malnutrition and the absence of medical care,” said Chris Gunness of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which is charged with helping displaced Palestinians across the region.

Most camp residents have long been eating little other than stale vegetables, powdered tomato paste and animal feed, he said.


Palestinians in Gaza City take part in a 7th January solidarity rally calling for an end to the Syrian army siege on Yarmouk camp. Photo by Mohammed Talatene / APA images

Camp residents and activists on Tuesday reported the deaths of two more people from hunger, bringing to 48 the number who have died since November from illnesses related to the siege, according to Farouq al-Rifai, an activist in Yarmouk who uses a pseudonym to protect family members living in government-held areas.

At least five of those deaths were directly caused by malnutrition, he said, while others were attributable to a range of causes related to the lack of food and medicine, including anemia and diabetes. Some are dying of illnesses related to the poor quality of food, such as a family of five that killed and ate a cat and then succumbed to food poisoning, Rifai said. Some food is available, but at prices that few can afford; most people are subsisting on meager quantities of lentils, onions and, sometimes, boiled grass.

All of the victims have been children and the elderly, but “the hunger is inescapable for everyone,” Rifai said.

Gunness said the United Nations could not confirm deaths from starvation, but it has noted the reports with alarm.

“Yarmouk remains closed to humanitarian access and remains a place where extreme human suffering in primitively harsh conditions is the norm,” he said.

The deprivation brings more suffering for Palestinians who fled their homes after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and have since lived, with their descendants, as refugees in camps across the region, making them uniquely vulnerable to its many crises.

More than 160,000 Palestinians lived in Yarmouk on the eve of the uprising in Syria, which began in 2011, but most have since fled the fighting, reducing the population to about 18,000, according to the United Nations. The number may be higher, because thousands of displaced Syrians also have taken refuge at the camp.


A UN humanitarian aid convoy, carrying food on Jan. 13 for 6,000 people and medical supplies to Yarmouk, was forced to withdraw under fire, according to Chris Gunness, (UNRWA). The convoy had been given clearance by the Syrian authorities.Photo by Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters

Yarmouk residents accuse forces loyal to Assad of blocking access to relief convoys. The government blames “terrorists” inside the camp, including members of the radical Jabhat al-Nusra, which it claims has sought sanctuary there.

Gunness said an aid convoy on Monday was forced to turn back after a firefight erupted as the vehicles approached a loyalist checkpoint on the southern entrance to the camp. The government had denied access to a safer route through a northern checkpoint closer to the capital, he said.

Western leaders say the government is preventing aid from reaching Yarmouk and other besieged Damascus suburbs where conditions are reported to be dire, as well.

“The deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people is . . . utterly unacceptable,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday.

The issue of access to humanitarian relief is expected to feature on the agenda of U.N.-sponsored peace talks set to be held next week in Switzerland, where it is hoped that the Syrian opposition and the government will meet for the first time to discuss an end to the three-year-old conflict. The United Nations estimates that 9.3 million Syrians in the country and 2 million outside are in urgent need of aid.

In a video posted Monday on YouTube, [watch?feature=player_embedded&v=H-dtwg-HW_0] a teenage boy living in the Yarmouk camp described the anguish of residents.

“We just want to eat and drink, and we have no money,” he said. “What have we done to be part of this?” he added, breaking into sobs. “It is nothing to do with us.”



The protests have spread from the oPt to Amman, Jordan (above). Photo by Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

Palestinians rally for besieged brethren in Syria’s Yarmouk camp

At least 28 Palestinians have died in Yarmouk refugee camp outside Damascus, which has been blockaded since July by Syria’s government.

By Dalia Hatuqa, Christian Science Monitor
January 14, 2014

The death of at least 28 starving Palestinians in Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp has sparked protests across the Middle East. Fellow Palestinians are calling on the international community and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to help end a siege imposed by the Syrian Army last summer, after the camp became a hub for rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and extremist Islamist groups.

For Palestinians here, who often took solace in the support of their compatriots abroad during Israeli military campaigns, a more concerted effort is needed to help Palestinian refugees caught in the brutal Syrian civil war.

“During the intifada our brothers in Yarmouk never forgot us,” says Lama Hourani, a Ramallah resident who kickstarted a campaign to raise send money to the camp. “We want to tell them we are doing the same for you; that we haven’t forgotten about you.”

Before the Syrian war began, Yarmouk was home to some 150,000 registered Palestinian refugees, making it the largest Palestinian camp in Syria. In December 2012, Syrian rebels seized the camp, and it soon became a base for operations for the FSA and Islamist militants. Syrian government forces responded with air strikes, and in July imposed a siege on the area, located on the southern outskirts of Damascus. Very little food or other aid has been permitted in Yarmouk since.

Spokesman Chris Gunness of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, says there is “profound civilian suffering” in Yarmouk. “Residents including infants and children are subsisting for long periods on diets of stale vegetables, herbs, powdered tomato paste, animal feed, and cooking spices dissolved in water,” he said in comments to media over the weekend.

Now there are only about 20,000 residents left. In recent weeks, conditions have greatly deteriorated, and many Palestinians have called on the PLO to take a more active role in helping lift the siege on the camp.

“It’s important that the parties involved in the civil strife in Syria stay out of the Palestinian camps and not drag refugees into this conflict,” says Sumoud Sadat, a youth activist from Ramallah who took part in a small protest in front of the PLO’s headquarters here last week.

Ahmad Majdalani, a PLO Executive Committee member said before departing for Syria last week that part of the problem is that there’s no one specific party to negotiate with to ensure the steady flow of goods and medicine into the camp. “There are too many armed groups and not anyone specific that we can talk with to ensure the neutrality of the camp is maintained,” he said.

Mr. Majdalani said an agreement signed with nine armed groups to leave the camp was thwarted after four, including Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), stayed put.

Complicating the issue, some Palestinians joined the FSA, while others formed an anti-Syrian government group called Liwa al-Asifa, or Storm Brigade. Those were pitted against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a Palestinian group allied with the Syrian government. Majdalani has previously blamed the PFLP-General Command for embroiling the camp in the fighting.

In Gaza City, Gaza; Haifa, Israel; Amman, Jordan; and Beirut and the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, Palestinians took to the streets to call on the international community and humanitarian groups to help lift the siege on the camp while West Bank radio stations dedicated air time to the Yarmouk crisis. Young Palestinians from Jerusalem began a sit-in this week outside the International Committee of the Red Cross’ headquarters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, denouncing the blockade.

The ICRC must “pressure all parties in Syria to lift the siege of Yarmouk and allow food and medicine into the camp,” said activist Yassin Sbeih.



Palestinian children carry a fake coffin as they take part in a sit-in on January 4, 2014 in Gaza city in solidarity with Palestinian children at Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. Photo by Mahmud Hams /AFP

Yarmouk – A Palestinian Responsibility

By Ibrahim al-Amin, Al Akhbar
January 13, 2014

Are we to express repentance before tackling such a subject? So be it, here we go: He who besieges a refugee camp is a criminal; he who kills people from hunger or thirst is a criminal; and he who doesn’t speak up against such oppression is a criminal! Fair enough? Let’s get down to business.

Following the death of Ariel Sharon, a single sentence was echoed by those supporting the opposition in Syria and objecting to the Resistance in Lebanon! Based on experience, ideology, politics, history, and geography, the majority of those people are not advocates of the Palestinian cause. On the contrary, they never once stood against any of the humiliation and massacres suffered by Palestinians all over the world, yet they agreed: “Sharon only died after he was assured that someone in Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp is continuing what he started in Sabra and Shatila!”

But, as a matter of fact, Yarmouk is not Sabra and Shatila. Syria is not Lebanon. The Syrian army is neither the Israeli occupying forces nor the racist Lebanese gangs. Those who believe this is an expression of solidarity with Palestinians, let them have it. Those who think that such a stupid slogan helps Palestinians, they are ridiculous.

But, as a matter of fact, Yarmouk is not Sabra and Shatila. Syria is not Lebanon. The Syrian army is neither the Israeli occupying forces nor the racist Lebanese gangs. The armed groups in the camp are not the pioneers of the Palestinian revolution. The Salafi Palestinian movement is not the Palestine Liberation Organization. And the road to Palestine doesn’t pass through Damascus.

First and foremost, the Palestinians ought to face the truth themselves, commoners before leaders, and refugees before residents of the historical land in the territories stolen in 1948, the occupied West Bank and liberated Gaza, which was transformed into a big prison!

Today, the unfolding events are 100 percent a Palestinian responsibility. This is a fact, and those who deny it should present us with evidence, not slogans. They should admit that Palestinians in Syria enjoyed advantages that their counterparts were deprived of in every corner of the world – advantages not even enjoyed in Gaza and the West Bank. In Syria, Palestinians were citizens.

Naturally, Palestinians endured oppression, tyranny, and misery like all Syrians. They also suffered from the practices of some Palestinian forces that took advantage of their relations with Damascus. But what happened to Yarmouk today? What made it a target? What pushed Palestinians in this camp to believe in toppling Bashar al-Assad?

In mid-2011, Yarmouk came to be at the heart of the Syrian crisis. No one imagined it would remain neutral, but no sane person ever figured that much of the camp would raise their weapons in the face of Syria.

The camp witnessed interior clashes, then some residents “rebelled” and took over large areas in the interest of “the Syrian revolution.” They refused to let the Syrian army in, and turned the camp into a haven for opposition armed groups.

The Syrian army bombarded the camp. Militants and civilians were killed. This was followed by the great exodus. Those who stayed are the ones who refused to go through a new displacement, as well as members of armed groups and their families. In a few months the camp was transformed into a haven for groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front.

The camp’s most prominent group is Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis Brigades (Brigades in the Environs of Jerusalem), formed by members of Hamas, including a bodyguard of Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal. Hamas claims the group leaders are no longer within its organizational structure, but still refuses to condemn their actions. Some of these militants provided assistance to armed groups outside the camp and even outside Damascus countryside.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army has not entered the camp, and it doesn’t intend to. This is a decision made by Syrian authorities and well known by all parties, including the camp’s armed groups. No real solution will ever be reached unless the Palestinians themselves force the militants out and decide to distance the camp from any interior Syrian tumult.

But the real issue here goes beyond Yarmouk, it actually involves many Palestinians, including the advocates of the Islamic movement inside Palestine and the diaspora. It is based on a Palestinian awareness that what is happening today goes against their beliefs regarding the future of their cause. The behaviors of Islamists in Syria, Egypt, and other countries brought catastrophes.

Can any Palestinian explain the secret of this great enthusiasm to topple the Assad regime? Whose interests are they serving by destroying Syria?

Meanwhile, the Syrian army has not entered the camp, and it doesn’t intend to. This is a decision made by Syrian authorities and well known by all parties, including the camp’s armed groups. Why is a Palestinian youth from the 1948 territories, the West Bank, or Gaza ready to travel to Syria to blow himself up when he can walk a few miles and blow himself up against occupiers of his land? There are a number of facts that indicate Palestinians are contributing to the war in Syria.

According to a December 2013 BBC report, 30 Palestinians from Gazan were killed in Syria, while an estimated 70 Palestinians left Gaza to join the war in Syria. Prominent Salafi leader in Gaza, Abdullah al-Maqdesi, told France 24, “About 27 jihadis left to fight in Syria, some of them came back, some were martyred, some injured and others are still there or left Syria to another country.”

Among the deceased: suicide bomber Wissam al-Atl and Fahed al-Habash whose obituary by the Hamas government stated he was martyred in Syria. Hamas police distributed official posters saying that Habash was killed while fighting alongside al-Nusra Front in Homs. His brother told British media that Fahed “wanted to fight Shia in Syria.”

Mohammed al-Qonayta, a Qassam Brigades leader, was killed while training ISIS fighters. Mohammed Jihad al-Zaanin fought alongside ISIS and was proclaimed a “martyr in the service of God.”

Eben Tamima Center in Gaza also announced the death of Nidal al- Ashi and Saed Shaalan “the martyrs of the Salafi movement in Syria”.

What are these Palestinians doing? Why are they doing it? Who can stop them or convince them that their battle is elsewhere? Palestinian refugees are the ones called to conduct an overall review.

The one who seeks to liberate Palestine doesn’t join a bunch of murderers who work under US command to serve one occupier and one criminal: Israel.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.



Children in Gaza protest about the starvation in Yarmouk camp. Photo by Mohammed Asad / MEMO

Children in Gaza demand protection for the starving children in Yarmouk refugee camp

By MEMO
January 15, 2014 

Palestinian kindergarten children in the Gaza Strip have taken to the streets holding empty pans, plates and spoons to voice support for their counterparts in the besieged Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees in Syria.

Organisers of the protest pointed out that: “Only the residents in the Gaza Strip can really feel the suffering of the besieged Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk camp. The Palestinians in Gaza have been under siege since 2006, so they understand first-hand what the siege is.”

During the protest, the children moved towards the headquarters of the International Red Cross in Gaza. They called for international human rights organisations around the world, including the Red Cross, to urgently work towards lifting the siege of the Yarmouk refugee camp.

Sources inside the camp are reporting that 48 Palestinians, including children and the elderly, have now starved to death as a result of the siege.

Television reports have shown refugees collecting grass from the sides of streets and leaves from trees in order to make some kind of meals.

On Monday, a refugee appeared on Al-Jazeera swearing that the [refugees] are even eating the meat of cats and dogs in order to survive.

The Yarmouk refugee camp was considered the largest compound for Palestinian refugees before the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011. More than 160,000 Palestinian refugees had lived there.

However, for the last 180 days, the camp has been under a strict siege enforced by Syrian regime forces and other supporting militias. As a result, most refugees have left; however, there are still 20,000 refugees trapped inside, many of whom are now suffering from starvation.

MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad 



Hamas urges militants to leave Damascus camp

By AFP / Al Ahram
January 15, 2014

Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas urged militants Wednesday to leave the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus in order to save residents from ongoing bloodshed.

“We urgently call all those carrying weapons in Yarmuk to leave the camp in order to save the lives of more than 50,000 civilians,” a statement said.

Hamas called for an “aid channel to be opened up immediately” to the camp, saying Palestinian refugees were not a “party to the conflict” and should be spared the violence of Syria’s nearly three-year civil war.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian minister accused “terrorists” fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of blocking aid access to the Yarmuk camp.

Palestinian labour minister Ahmad Majdalani, who was visiting Damascus to negotiate aid access to the camp, said its Palestinian residents must not be used as hostages in the conflict.

Rebels control swathes of Yarmuk, but for months government forces have imposed a suffocating siege on the camp, where some 20,000 Palestinians live despite terrible shortages.

Some 45 people have died in recent months because of food and medical shortages in Yarmuk, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said, with the most recent death on Tuesday.



Palestinian refugees starving to death in Syrian camp, human rights groups say

By Samira Said, CNN
January 15, 2014

A man lies dead; his severely emaciated body makes the rib cage protruding from his midsection look violent and sharp. A child sits in the dirt, the closed storefront behind him spray-painted with the words “I swear to God I am hungry.” The lifeless body of a baby lies discolored and wrapped in a white sheet.

These are a few of the pictures activists have posted on social media pages from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, just 6 miles from central Damascus.

The first to die from starvation at the camp was 4-year old Abdelhay Youssef on November 2, activists say. Since then, at least 43 more people have died from a lack of food and medical supplies at the camp — 28 from starvation, said the Palestine Association for Human Rights in Syria, which has gathered and posted the names of the dead.

The camp has been cut off from aid since November 2013 and engulfed in fighting between the government and rebel forces since December 2012, when the Free Syrian Army rebel group gained control of the area but the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad controlled the entrances.

In late 2012, the Free Syrian Army clashed with the pro-Assad leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, which had run the camp. The regime still maintains control of camp entrances, and armed groups fighting near the entrances have prevented aid from entering.

‘We are dying, slowly’
“Today is the 180th day that food has not been allowed in Yarmouk,” activist and resident Abu Mohammed said. “We had food when it started, and it (has run out) since then.”

People are now surviving on water boiled with herbs, he said, or families sharing a cup of rice with their neighbors. “We are dying, slowly,” he said.

“Just today, three people tried to go to an empty field to eat grass from the ground, and they were shot by snipers,” he said, his voice rising in frustration. “If you can imagine — people are dying just to eat grass.”

Another picture from the camp shows stalks of cactus that activists say are being sold for 500 Syrian pounds ($3.50).
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, has tried to give food and other aid to camp residents “amid reports of widespread malnutrition in Yarmouk, amid reports of women dying during childbirth because of shortages of medical care, amid reports of children eating animal feed to survive,” said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the agency.

Their attempts have been unsuccessful. On Monday, aid trucks had to retreat after the Syrian government told the convoy to enter from the camp’s southern entrance, where heavy gunfire prevented it from proceeding.

In a video posted on YouTube, a young man who appears to be a teenager cries hysterically: “(A kilogram) of rice costs 10,000 Syrian pounds ($70)! We don’t have enough! We have nothing to do with either side (of the fighting)! We want to eat and drink! We want to be safe! Have mercy on us!”

According to estimates from the UNRWA, there were 160,000 Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk camp before the fighting began, and 18,000 remain.

It’s difficult to leave
For residents who can afford to leave, their Palestinian refugee status makes travel very difficult. “Our passports are Syrian-Palestinian passports. We can leave Syria, but we can’t enter Palestine. Even if we could (leave the camp), we cannot go to Turkey without a visa, and Jordan will never let us in. We cannot go to Iraq. To go to Europe, we need visas. We have no embassies in Syria, but Lebanon will not let us in unless we have already a visa (to somewhere else), since we are only allowed a 48-hour transit visa in Lebanon,” Mohammed said.

Yarmouk has seen widespread cases of “malnutrition and the absence of medical care, including for those who have severe conflict-related injuries, and including for women in childbirth, with fatal consequences for some women. Residents including infants and children are subsisting for long periods on diets of stale vegetables, herbs, powdered tomato paste, animal feed and cooking spices dissolved in water,” Gunness said.

“The hijacking of Yarmouk camp in Damascus by armed groups that have practiced and still practice methodical terrorism constitutes a war crime against humanity,” Palestinian Labor Minister Ahmad Majdalani said on a visit to Damascus, according to the Syrian state-run SANA news agency.

“There has been an appalling absence of electricity and heating for horrendously long periods, now close to one year, with all (that) this implies for poor health. Residents are having to rely on going out on terraces and burning furniture and branches to warm themselves in the open because wood fires cannot be resorted to indoors,” Gunness said.

“The scale of the crisis in Syria, with millions of civilians affected, is staggering and the humanitarian response insufficient,” Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Monday, at the end of a three-day visit to the country.

“We are under the control of the FSA, and they need to fight for us, to break this siege,” said Mohammed, the camp resident and activist. “If they aren’t fighting for us, they should leave.”

The camp “remains a place where extreme human suffering in primitively harsh conditions is the norm for Palestinian and Syrian civilians living there. I emphasize that the imperative remains that Syrian authorities and other parties must allow and facilitate safe and open humanitarian access into Yarmouk to enable us to assist civilians trapped there,” Gunness said.



Palestinian Minister of Labor Ahmad Majdalani speaks at a press conference in Damascus when visiting Syria on Jan. 14, 2014. Majdalani said that seizing Palestinian citizens as hostages inside the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp is “unacceptable”. Rebels inside a Palestinian camp in Damascus fired at relief shipments near its entrance, forcing the convoy to return without delivering aid to the refugees, the camp’s popular committee said Monday. Photo by Bassem Tellawi/ Xinhua

Syrian rebels fire on aid convoy to Palestinian refugee camp

By Xinhua news agency
January 14, 2014

Visiting Palestinian Minister of Labor Ahmad Majdalani speaks during a press conference in Damascus, Syria on Jan. 14, 2014. Majdalani said that seizing Palestinian citizens as hostages inside the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp is “unacceptable”. Rebels inside a Palestinian camp in Damascus fired at relief shipments near its entrance, forcing the convoy to return without delivering aid to the refugees, the camp’s popular committee said Monday. (Xinhua/Bassem Tellawi)

DAMASCUS, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) — Rebels inside a Palestinian camp in Damascus fired at relief shipments near its entrance, forcing the convoy to return without delivering aid to the refugees, the camp’s popular committee said Monday.

In a statement, the committee said “armed terrorist groups” opened fire at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) aid convoy for the Palestinian refugees trapped in the rebel-held al-Yarmouk camp, adding: “terrorists inside the camp insist on starving the locals and using their suffering as a political tool. ”

The statement said the shooting hampered yet another bid to ease the suffering of the al-Yarmouk residents, calling for an end to the tragedy of the Palestinian people.

The Syrian forces have besieged for months the al-Yarmouk camp, the main residential area for Palestinian refugees in Syria, blocking its food and medical supplies in a bid to force the rebels out.

People in the camp find themselves caught in the middle of the fighting and victimized by the violence. They urged the Jihadist groups to leave their camp in order for the government troops to break the siege and allow in relief aid.

The Syrian officials accused the rebels inside the camp of hindering efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to the afflicted people inside that area.

Khaled Abdul-Majid of the Damascus-based Palestinian Popular Struggle Front told Xinhua recently that a total of 30 Palestinians died in the past three months as a result of hunger and illness at the camp.

When violence started creeping toward the camp in early 2013, many of its residents, both Syrians and Palestinians, fled their homes.

Some Damascus-based Palestinian factions put forward many initiatives recently that aim to disassociate the camp from the Syrian conflict, but they were all rendered flat.

Visiting Palestinian Minister of Labor Ahmad Majdalani on Monday condemned the “terrorist groups” who prevented the entry of the relief convoy. He also noted numerous political attempts to entangle the Palestinians in the Syrian crisis.

Meanwhile, Chris Gunness, a UNRWA spokesman, remarked recently: “There is profound civilian suffering in al-Yarmouk with widespread incidence of malnutrition and the absence of medical care.”

“Residents including infants and children are subsisting for long periods on diets of stale vegetables, herbs, powdered tomato paste, animal feed and cooking spices dissolved in water. Children are suffering from diseases linked to severe malnutrition, including anemia, rickets, and kwashiorkor,” he noted.

He emphasized the Syrian authorities and other parties must allow and facilitate safe and open humanitarian access into al- Yarmouk to enable the UNRWA to assist civilians trapped there.

Syria’s 500,000 Palestinian refugees have tried to keep a distance from the violence that takes place in nearby areas, but Syria’s civil conflict did not spare them.


Notes and links
Statement from UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness, published by Electronic Intifada, January 2014 :

There is profound civilian suffering in Yarmouk with widespread incidence of malnutrition and the absence of medical care, including for those who have severe conflict-related injuries, and including for women in childbirth, with fatal consequences for some women. Residents, including infants and children, are subsisting for long periods on diets of stale vegetables, herbs, powdered tomato paste, animal feed and cooking spices dissolved in water. Children are suffering from diseases linked to severe malnutrition, including anemia, rickets, and kwashiorkor.

There has been an appalling absence of electricity and heating for horrendously long periods, now close to one year, with all this implies for poor health. Residents are having to rely on going out on terraces and burning furniture and branches to warm themselves in the open because wood fires cannot be resorted to indoors. There is a very infrequent supply of tap water – reportedly available for four hours only at intervals of three days. The unending armed conflict brings death and inflicts serious injuries on Yarmouk residents in addition to the extreme deprivation of living a trapped existence.

It is public knowledge that some residents have been allowed to leave Yarmouk, although it remains unclear how many have left and whether the conditions under which they left were consistent with the international standards for the protection of civilians. From a humanitarian perspective, Yarmouk remains closed to humanitarian access and remains a place where extreme human suffering in primitively harsh conditions is the norm for Palestinian and Syrian civilians living there. I emphasize that the imperative remains that Syrian authorities and other parties must allow and facilitate safe and open humanitarian access into Yarmouk to enable us to assist civilians trapped there.

Dire deprivation in Syria’s Yarmouk camp, Al Jazeera embedded video

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