World Bulletin/News Desk
At least 128 individuals have starved to death at the Yarmouk camp, on the outskirts of Damascus since the siege was tightened in July 2013 and access to crucial food and medical supplies was cut off.
Yarmouk, once home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and Syrian nationals, is one of several districts on the edge of the Syrian capital which the army has surrounded to choke off rebel forces seeking Assad's overthrow.
“Life in Yarmouk has grown increasingly unbearable for desperate civilians who find themselves starving and trapped in a downward cycle of suffering with no means of escape,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.
“Civilians of Yarmouk are being treated like pawns in a deadly game in which they have no control.”
Around 17,000-20,000 Palestinian and Syrian refugees live in the Yarmouk camp.
The report says that government forces and their allies have repeatedly carried out attacks, including air raids and shelling with heavy weapons, on civilian buildings such as schools, hospitals and a mosque in Yarmouk.
Doctors and medical staff have also been targeted.
At least 60 per cent of those remaining in Yarmouk are said to be suffering from malnutrition, according to the report.
Residents told Amnesty International they had not eaten fruit or vegetables for many months and prices have skyrocketed with a kilo of rice costing up to $100.
“Syrian forces are committing war crimes by using starvation of civilians as a weapon of war. The harrowing accounts of families having to resort to eating cats and dogs, and civilians attacked by snipers as they forage for food, have become all too familiar details of the horror story that has materialized in Yarmouk,” said Luther.
The camp has also had its electricity power supply cut since April 2013.
Luther called on both the Syrian government and the opposition to refrain from attacks on medical and other humanitarian workers.
“The siege of Yarmouk amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population. The Syrian government must end its siege immediately and allow humanitarian agencies unfettered access to assist suffering civilians,” Luther added.
Amnesty listed 194 people it said were civilians who had died in Yarmouk since then. Two thirds were reported to have died of starvation, the London-based human rights group said.
Under an agreement reached in mid-January, the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has distributed food to the remaining Yarmouk inhabitants, but its work has been interrupted by continued fighting and it says the food which has reached Yarmouk is inadequate.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said on Monday that clashes and shelling continued in Yarmouk over the weekend and the agency had not been able to deliver humanitarian aid for the last nine days.
Global campaign for Syria in Times Square
The global humanitarian community has released a joint “Thunderclap” statement signed by 130 organisations, including major UN agencies and International Non-Governmental organizations, demanding “immediate, secure, substantial and permanent humanitarian access for all civilians in Syria."
The statement calls on world leaders on the third anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict ; “Don't let the people in Syria, children and families, lose another year to bloodshed and suffering, violating the most fundamental laws of war.”
“This is part of a Thunderclap social media campaign and it aims to reach 23 million people with the hashtag “LetUsThrough. The “Thunderclap," said UN Relief and Works Agency Spokesperson, Chris Gunness.
"Once we reach 23 million, the campaign image of thousands of civilians waiting for food in Yarmouk Camp will appear on the billboard in Times Square in New York on March 18th, sending a powerful signal to the global diplomatic community in UN Headquarters nearby.”
“We will then photograph the image in Times Square and tweet it back to the 23 million who supported the campaign, including the people of Syria," he added.Last Mod: 10 Mart 2014, 13:43