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Relief convoy reaches besieged Yarmouk following landmark agreement
Published Saturday 18/01/2014 (updated) 20/01/2014 09:34
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DAMASCUS (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Authority Minister of Labor Ahmed Majdalani said that a convoy with food and medicine had entered Syria's Yarmouk camp on Saturday afternoon as part of a relief agreement for the camp reached on Friday.

Majdalani said that the convoy includes 200 parcels weighing 30 kg each, consisting of basic foodstuffs to help Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk after seven months of siege imposed by regime forces.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness confirmed that the aid had been successfully received inside the camp as part of a "trial phase" of the agreement.

Majdalani said during a press conference at the national information center in Ramallah on Saturday that some of the non-Palestinian armed factions had left the camp starting Friday evening, and that the rest of these factions would leave the camp on Saturday and Sunday.

He said that their departure would be followed by more aid convoys on Sunday, including food and medicines, while the evacuation of the sick, injured, and the elderly would begin today in collaboration with the Syrian Ministry of Social Affairs, which will provide shelters for the evacuees.

University students, meanwhile, would be evacuated starting Sunday.

Majdalani also explained that bulldozers began to remove roadblocks and barriers that had previously blocked major roads linking the camp to the outside world in order to facilitate the delivery of relief convoys and to return life to normal inside the camp.

He stressed that the fact that "militants barricaded themselves inside the camp was no coincidence," but was primarily a "political act."

He added: "We will work hard to ensure that the Palestinians in Syria remain neutral and outside of the Syrian internal crisis because the Palestinians in Syria are guests and do not interfere in the internal affairs of the host country."

UNRWA is playing 'support role'

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that "Syrian authorities sought UNRWA's support as the neutral, humanitarian agency with a mandate for Palestine refugees. It is important to emphasize that the contribution of UNRWA was a small contribution to the effort of others, such as the Palestinian groups, to test an arrangement.

"UNRWA responded positively by donating the requested food parcels -- not directly to the Palestinian factions -- but through an intermediary," and he said that they received assurances that the donations would be distributed in a "neutral manner for humanitarian purposes."

He clarified, however, that in the convoy, "UNRWA is playing only a support role. Today's effort is not an UNRWA convoy and UNRWA is not involved or engaged in the transport of the food parcels into Yarmouk or its distribution inside Yarmouk."

"Regardless of the outcome of today's effort, UNRWA's position remains that Yarmouk must be open to safe, regular humanitarian access; that the civilian residents of Yarmouk must be granted free, safe movement; and that all sides to the Syria conflict must comply with their international obligations to protect Syrian and Palestinian civilians in Yarmouk and across Syria," he added.

The announcement came after the 14 militant factions involved in the fighting, the national reconciliation committee, and Palestinian militants inside the camp had agreed to allow the introduction of aid into the camp from the Rama Road entrance on Saturday.

The agreement was the result of a long meeting that took place on Friday between the parties involved in the clashes in the camp that was chaired by Rateb Shehab, head of the delegation, with a delegation from inside the camp representing the armed groups and Palestinian committees headed by Abu Hashem Zaghmout, Abu al-Abd Arisha and Abu Saleh Fatyan.

As a result of the meeting, humanitarian aid began entering today, and preparations have begun to remove barriers from the Rama Street entrance to the camp to facilitate the movement of the sick and the young from the camp.

Several attempts to deliver aid to Yarmouk camp have been thwarted in recent weeks due to rigorous fighting within and around the camp.

At least four Palestinians were killed in the camp on Thursday after government helicopters dropped a barrel bomb on it, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Militants say at least seven Palestinians refugees died in the attack.

At least 50 people have died due to food and medicine shortages in the camp in recent months, according to the Observatory.

After rebels seized control of Yarmouk in December 2012, the camp became embroiled in the armed fighting taking place across Syria and came under heavy regime assault.

Regime forces eventually encircled the camp and in July imposed a siege on the camp, leading to a rapid deterioration of living conditions.

Fatah leader Abbas Zaki told Ma'an in mid-October that Yarmouk's population of 250,000 had dwindled to 18,000 after two and a half years of conflict in Syria.

The Syrian conflict, which began as peaceful protests in March 2011 but developed into a civil war, has killed more than 130,000 people and prompted millions to flee their homes.

More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants -- were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.
1 ) Tara Hargreaves-Court / UK
18/01/2014 19:42
Thank G-d the convoy with food and medicine has entered Syria's Yarmouk camp, will these Arabs ever stop killing each other?

2 ) Linda J / USA
18/01/2014 20:05
Tara, when will Israel welcome the return of Palestinians to their home (after all, Israel's brutal expulsion is why the Palestinian refugees are in Yarmouk).

3 ) Sarah / The Netherlands
18/01/2014 20:45
I was just looking at the pictures and video's, I am so happy now! Lets keep the food coming in, lots is needed.

4 ) E / usa
18/01/2014 22:02
To first 3 comments. What are you people kidding me! Who cares wheather food is there or not. Waste of taxpayers money for no reason what's so ever. And by the way #2. Arabs told arabs to leave in 1948 they just didn't think jews will win but jews are strong and arabs weak. So blame arabs while jews enjoy life in their land.

5 ) Wardah Abd Al Hadi / Oman
18/01/2014 22:08
Al hamdulliah wa Allahu Akbar (Praise be to God, God is Great). Thanks to Allah the aid is starting to get through & the rebel forces have heeded the call to withdraw from Yarmouk camp to make this possible. The Palestinians in the camp are neutral & vunerable. Hopefully as many as possible, preferably all, will be evacuated from there, to safer places.

6 ) Watercress Farmer / Spain
18/01/2014 23:14
#5 You live in cloud cuckoo land if you think, ''as many as possible, preferably all, will be evacuated from there, to safer places''. Islamic countries have not given these Arab Muslim people citizenship or shelter, in the past sixty years. They have left these brother Muslims to fester and rot, not prosper.

7 ) Miriam / us
19/01/2014 01:09
#1, Tara...you should've stopped after your praise for relief convoy entering Yarmouk. Too bad you contaminated the kindness with bigotry/ignorance. #4, E says: 'who cares' whether there's food?waste of $$$$. U haven't looked into the eyes of a baby dying of starvation...would you speak such venal cursed words to a mother who lost a child during shoah? Then you make it worse by adding the same old lies ....about 48. Get an educated...way overdue.

8 ) Robby / USA
19/01/2014 02:56
2 ) Linda J / USA - there probably isn't very many, if anyone in Yarmouk that wasn't born there. The refugee camps are an invention by the Arabs, stop making excuses for them.

9 ) Adam Neira / Egypt
19/01/2014 08:27
Yarmouk is a test case/microcosm. This relief shipment is a positive yet the amount is tokenistic. To build trust, the Assad Regime must allow, for a minimum period of ten days (leading up to, including and after the talks in Montreaux) a minimum of ten (10) fully loaded 5 tonne trucks containing food, medicine and other goods, into the camp per day. Drivers should come from INSIDE the camp and be given safe passage on their exit and return. Prayers for Syria.

10 ) 200 years from now / when the number
19/01/2014 08:28
of Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk camp will be 27,000,000 ....... the hunger problems will be HUGE and many many trucks will be needed. Then 400 years from now when the number of Palesinian refugees will be close to 900,000,000----the hunger problems will REALLY be SEVERE!!!!

11 ) Rene / US
19/01/2014 11:45
Why does this report and at least one other at Maan say "after a seven months of siege imposed by the regime forces". Yarmouk has been sieged by Takfiri and al-Nusra terrorists and God know who else. There was also an article here last week and in the comments there was some discussion about are Palestinians fighting and for who? I have read that very large numbers of Palestinians have joined with the various terrorist groups. Those who have lived in Syria so long should not fight Syria.

12 ) E / Usa
19/01/2014 16:41
To Miriam please stop living in fantasy world and spare me the non sense of looking babies in the eyes. first and foremost muslims dont care about their children. and in case your brain forgot syria used chemical weapons on children so please you get educated or you just plain ignorant. and about 1948 lies or lies its irrelevant. arabs leave and syria and jews in israel. period
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