April 6, 2015
The Islamic State won control of Yarmouk over the weekend after it managed to enter the camp last week, reportedly with the help of Jabhat a-Nusra.
Yarmouk camp’s population, once home to more than 100,000 Syrians and Palestinians, has been whittled down to an estimated 18,000 stuck inside after being encircled by the regime for more than two years. At least one dozen civilians have starved to death due to the blockade.
“Our demands are that UNRWA administer services inside the camp and that it open up humanitarian corridors under international protection in order to allow the elderly and those with special needs to leave the camp,” Hakim Said, the alias of a media activist in Yarmouk Camp, told Syria Direct’s Firas Abd last month before the Islamic State took over.
Those demands were not met.
“No UNRWA humanitarian operations have been possible inside Yarmouk since the outbreak of fighting on April 1st,” said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness on Sunday. The UN’s Refugee Works Agency is responsible for providing services inside UN-recognized Palestinian camps in Syria.
Q: Why did aid return to the camp after being cut off for so long?
The main reason for the return of aid is the moving of the distribution site from an area controlled by forces loyal to Ahmed Jabril [leader of the pro-regime Palestinian militia group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command] to a second location on the border of the camp where regime forces are directly present on one side and Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis are on the other.
[Editor’s note: Ahmed Jabril and his group have helped enforce the regime siege on Yarmouk.]
Children play amidst IS’s takeover of Yarmouk this weekend. Photo courtesy of Old Palestinian Lens.
Q: Are you all satisfied with this aid? Why or why not?
No, we are not satisfied because we do not know when we will get more aid packages. We will finish the ones that we just received within a week. The amount of bread is not enough for more than for two days.
Q: Then what do you all want? What are your demands?
The area of Yarmouk camp is an international zone, as it is an area home to Palestinian refugees. Our demands are that UNRWA administer services inside the camp and that it open up humanitarian corridors under international protection in order to allow the elderly and those with special needs to leave the camp.
However, the regime has refused this proposal on the pretext that [Yarmouk camp] is a breeding ground for terrorists. Thus, it is necessary for the international community to help with this issue.
Q: Which party oversees the distribution of aid? What is the mechanism of distribution?
The aid comes from UNRWA, which supervises its distribution directly.
As for the distribution process, all of the camp’s population is in need of aid. Thus, it is distributed to all without exception and the distribution will continue for several days until the entire population has been covered.
Q: Who is the party that protects the delegation and the distribution process? Does the regime interfere or violate the distribution?
Distribution happens in the municipality of Yarmouk camp on Palestine Street. It is an area under contestation and is controlled by no one, but there is regime influence and the presence of UNRWA.
In terms of violations, security forces carried out the detention of several young men, but UNRWA intervened and they were released immediately.
Q: How many packages were distributed and what did they contain?
Around 400 food packages were distributed today and more than 1,500 parcels of bread, 1,800 jars of jam, and 1,000 kilos of dates. Every food basket contains five kilos of rice, five kilos of lentils, five kilos of sugar, three kilos of flour, three kilos of milk, three kilos of oil, three packages of mortadella and three cans of sardines.