14 March 2014

A new report published this week by Amnesty International provides evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Palestinian and Syrian civilians who live in Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus, under siege by governmental forces since December 2012.

The report, entitled “Squeezing the Life Out of Yarmuk: War Crimes against besieged civilians” denounces the death of almost 200 people since July 2013, when the siege became more stringent, fundamentally affecting access to food and medicines. According to Amnesty International, 128 people have starved to death. Prices have risen and one kilo of rice may cost more than 70 euros. In addition, the camp has not had any electricity supply since April 2013. At least 60 per cent of the reportedly 17,000 to 20,000 people remaining in Yarmouk are said to be suffering from malnutrition.

“Syrian forces are committing war crimes by using the starvation of civilians as a weapon of war. The harrowing accounts of families having to resort to eating cats and dogs, and civilians attacked by snipers as they forage for food, have become all too familiar details of the horror story that has materialized in Yarmouk,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. 

According to the study, the governmental forces and their allies repeatedly attacked civilian premises such as schools, hospitals and a mosque, using both air raids and bombing. Some of the buildings targeted were used as shelters for internally displaced persons coming from other conflict areas. Most hospitals have closed.

In February 2014, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution to put an end to the siege in residential areas, allow unhindered access to humanitarian agencies and stop the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.

“The siege of Yarmouk is the deadliest of a series of armed blockades of other civilian areas, imposed by Syrian armed forces or armed opposition groups on a quarter of a million people across the country. These sieges are causing immeasurable human suffering and all of them must end immediately”, Amnesty International said in a statement.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 14 March 2014
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