Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus on January 31, 2014, in this handout picture made available to Reuters February 26, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
British celebrities are calling on the international community to protect Palestinian refugees who are caught in the middle of the Syrian civil war.
High-profile entertainers signed a letter demanding that the UN create havens and broker cease-fires to enable aid groups to supply relief to besieged sectors of Syria.
Actors Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson and recording legends Sting and Roger Waters are among the signatories.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, and HOPING, a charity that has supported Palestinian refugee children, endorsed the letter, AFP reported.
The celebrities called on the UN “to tell us how they will create safe spaces and local cease-fires with immediate effect.”
“People and relief must be let through,” the letter read. “We want our voices to carry, on behalf of those now suffering in Syria, in order to prevent any more tragedy.”
An Amnesty International report issued earlier this month alleged that Syrian forces are committing war crimes by starving civilians as a weapon of war.
The report cited the government’s actions affecting Palestinian and Syrian civilians in Yarmuk district in Damascus.
The report, “Squeezing the life out of Yarmuk: War crimes against besieged civilians,” comes before the third anniversary of the civil war in Syria and highlights the deaths of nearly 200 Yarmuk residents since the siege around it was tightened in July 2013. Access to food, fuel, and medical supplies was cut off in Yarmuk, other districts of the capital and other areas near major cities such as Homs and Aleppo.
Lead researcher Neil Sammonds told The Jerusalem Post
that in the past few weeks, since they finished the report, the situation has gotten worse.
Food deliveries by the UN Relief and Works Agency stopped in March, said Sammonds.Armed rebel groups
such as al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, and its rival, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, have returned to the camp, as they have secret ways to break through the siege, he said.
Since March 2, these groups have returned because they felt that the Syrian Army was not upholding the agreement to lift the siege. The Syrian government and the opposition came to an agreement whereby fighters agreed to leave the camp in exchange for a lifting of the siege. The deal broke down a week ago as fighters returned to the camp.
“The Syrian government did allow more aid in and 500 ill and injured people could leave, but the government didn’t abide by the agreement,” Sammonds said.
The report focuses on Yarmuk, where the siege has had the harshest impact. Palestinians who live there are former refugees or their descendants.
Yarmuk was home to the country’s largest Palestinian refugee community, some 180,000 Palestinians, as well as several hundred thousand Syrians.
Between 17,000 and 20,000 people remain, many of them elderly or sick.
Almost two-thirds of Syria’s 530,000 Palestinians are internally displaced. More than 50,000 have fled to Lebanon, 11,000 to Jordan, 6,000 to Egypt, 1,000 to Libya, 1,000 to the Gaza Strip and others to Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
According to Amnesty International, 128 of the deaths were due to starvation. The camp has been without electricity since April.
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