Activists: 63 people die in Syria refugee camp

AP News
Posted: Jan 24, 2014 11:39 AM

BEIRUT (AP) — More than 60 people have died over the past months in a besieged Palestinian refugee camp in Syria's capital from a lack of food and medicine, an activist group said Friday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the first person died in the Yarmouk camp in June. It said a total of 63 people have died there since the siege began — 61 of which died in the past three months.

Yarmouk, on the southern fringe of Damascus, is one of the worst-hit besieged areas in Syria. Activists and residents previously said that some 50 people died of starvation and hunger-related illnesses since the government imposed a blockade on the sprawling district a year ago.

The Observatory called on the international community, and Russia, which has close links with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, to work toward lifting the siege imposed by government forces and loyal Palestinian militiamen.

"It is shameful that the international community, which claims to protect human beings, is not working for ending the humanitarian crisis in Syria," the group said in a statement.

Over the past week, authorities allowed a few hundred food parcels to reach the camp in what appeared to be a goodwill gesture ahead of a peace conference in Switzerland.

Rami al-Sayed, a videographer and resident in the Yarmouk camp, said earlier this week that only a tiny amount of aid entered because government officials ordered aid workers to distribute the parcels in an area under sniper fire.

The need to open humanitarian corridors to relieve civilian suffering is one of the expected topics of the peace conference that opened Wednesday in the Swiss city of Montreux.

In the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest, the Observatory and the Aleppo Media Center reported an air raid on the Dahret Awad neighborhood. The Observatory said the airstrikes killed and wounded several people, while the Aleppo Media Center said 10 were killed.

In neighboring Lebanon, three rockets fired from Syria fell in the border town of Hermel, a stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group, whose members are fighting along Assad's forces, the state-run National News Agency said. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Syrian rebels have fired scores of rockets into predominantly Shiiite areas of Lebanon over the past months, killing and wounding a number of people.