A street in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro) / AFP 2013
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) released a statement on Friday condemning the killing of four Palestinian refugees from the Khan al-Shih refugee camp in Syria, warning that Khan al-Shih “is at risk of becoming another Yarmouk,” another Palestinian refugee camp in the Damascus area that has been devastated by years of violence.
On the night of Oct. 18, as they attempted to leave the Khan al-Shih camp -- to which access has been highly restricted, Nofeh Muhammad Jarad, who was in her 60s, her daughter Ibaa Said al-Nader, 22, their driver, and a one-year old baby were all killed when their vehicle was shelled.
The mother of the baby, a Syrian citizen, also died in the incident.
“UNRWA condemns this attack and the killing and wounding of all civilians including Palestine refugees,” the statement said.
“(UNRWA) calls on those responsible to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and demands that the parties to the conflict do their utmost to protect civilian life in accordance with international law.”
The statement added that tightened security around the area after years of a devastating Syrian regime siege has severely reduced the ability of residents to move safely and readily access humanitarian aid and medical support, leaving camp residents in grave danger when attempting to leave Khan al-Shih.
The statement continued with UNRWA calling for full humanitarian access to Khan al-Shih in order to deliver emergency food, cash assistance, and medicines.
“Access to humanitarian assistance has been constrained since 2013 and UNRWA is particularly concerned about a lack of medicines and the impact this will have on children, chronic disease patients and the elderly in (Khan al-Shih). UNRWA calls on the parties to allow civilians, who wish to leave the area, to do so in safety.”
The Syrian conflict began in the form of peaceful protests in March 2011 and quickly morphed into a civil war that has so far left more than 400,000 people dead and millions displaced according to UN estimates.
Over half a million Palestinians lived across nine refugee camps in Syria prior to the war, the descendants of some of the 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes during the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Syria's civil war has seen many of these families displaced a second time, with up to 280,000 displaced inside Syria, a further 110,000 displaced to neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and increasingly, to Europe.