Residents queue up to receive humanitarian aid at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestine Liberation Organization on Saturday urgently appealed to the international community on behalf of thousands of refugees ensnared in the ongoing fighting at the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.
Islamic State has taken control of 90 percent of the Palestinian refugee camp on the Damascus outskirts where 18,000 civilians have suffered years of bombing, army siege and militia control, a monitoring group said on Saturday.
The hardline group's offensive in Yarmouk gives it a major presence in the capital. Islamic State, the most powerful insurgent group in Syria, is now only a few kilometers from President Bashar Assad's seat of power.
The United Nations has said it is extremely concerned about the safety and protection of Syrians and Palestinians in the camp. Civilians trapped there have long suffered a government siege that has led to starvation and disease.
"The situation in Yarmouk is an affront to the humanity of all of us, a source of universal shame," UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness said.
"Yarmouk is a test, a challenge for the international community. We must not fail. The credibility of the international system itself is at stake," he said.
“The current situation in the al-Yarmouk refugee camp is a heartbreaking catastrophe," PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said on Saturday.
"Since December 2012, tens of thousands of men, women and children, most of whom are Palestinian refugees, have been forced to flee and have had their lives torn apart by war. The 18,000 residents who remain in Yarmouk are in great danger from extremist groups, including ISIS, that are seeking to take full control of the camp."
"There is an urgent need for all countries to intervene immediately and work together to provide emergency relief and put an end to the bloodshed and the loss of innocent lives in the al-Yarmouk refugee camp," she said.
"We call on all members of the international community, particularly the United Nations, European Union and the United States, to safeguard the innocent people of Yarmouk and ensure that all sides commit to a permanent ceasefire."