Yarmouk refugee camp .
(photo credit: REUTERS/TAGHRID MOHAMMED/UNRWA)
The UN Relief and Works Agency is seeking peaceful ways to bring humanitarian aid to the embattled Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk on the outskirts of Damascus, even if it calls for dealing directly or indirectly with all parties on the ground, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“The important thing today is trying to get people who wish to temporarily leave Yarmuk to leave in safety, and we also need to look at ways to supply humanitarian assistance for people where they are,” said Gunness.
“We are exploring peaceful options for resolving the humanitarian crisis, including talking to the Syrian government who have helped facilitate our access to 500
people who have fled from Yarmuk,” he said.
Ramzi Ezzedine Ramzi, the deputy to the UN envoy to Syria, told Reuters on Saturday that the United Nations would work with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government to ensure the safety of some 18,000 Palestinians and Syrians in Yarmuk.
Ramzi said he left a meeting Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Saturday “quite satisfied and confident that there will be very good cooperation.”
His visit to Damascus comes two days after UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon warned that residents of Yarmuk, which has been besieged by the government since 2013, were being “held hostage” by Islamic State and other extremists.
UN officials have warned of a potential massacre there.
Ban said the camp’s residents “face a double-edged sword – armed elements inside the camp, and government forces outside.”
Pierre Krahenbuhl, the head of UNRWA, visited Syria on Sunday and met with refugees that had fled their residences because of the recent upswing in violence.
“Once again, I am deeply moved by the dignity of Palestine refugees in the face of adversity. More than ever, UNRWA will stand by Palestine refugees in this most critical time,” he said, according to UNRWA’s website.
Gunness pointed out three ways that his organization was working to deal with the crisis: Getting aid inside of the camp; bringing assistance to people temporarily relocating; and providing a safe evacuation for civilians who want to leave.
Since March 28, no UNRWA deliveries of food, water, or medicine have been carried out to Yarmuk, and the situation is “beyond dire,” according to the UNRWA official.
Asked if the plan should be to evacuate all remaining civilians from Yarmuk, Gunness replied that his organization respects the wishes of civilians who wish to stay.
Reuters contributed to this report.