In war-torn Syria, the civilian population has borne the brunt of the violence. And few have suffered as much as the people of Yarmouk, a dense suburb of southern Damascus that was originally established in 1957 as a camp for Palestinian refugees, but became a thriving neighborhood and was considered the center of Palestinian commerce in Syria before the war.
In mid-December 2012, opposition forces moved into Yarmouk, leading to clashes with the Syrian government, and the subsequent surrounding of the neighborhood by Syrian government security forces.
On July 10, 2013 - two days into Ramadan - pro-Assad forces barred all food and medicine from entering Yarmouk, beginning a siege that continues to this day. Residents were prevented from leaving, and there have been reports of civilians dying from lack of basic necessities, including water, food and medical treatment. The neighborhood, where five years ago the population included approximately 150,000 Palestinian refugees, is today down to under 18,000 civilians.
The situation became infinitely worse on April 1 of this year, when units of the violent extremist group ISIL, also known as DAESH, entered Yarmouk and began to brutalize the population.
“The United States strongly condemns ISIL’s advance on the besieged Palestinian community in Yarmouk, southern Damascus,” said United States Representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power.
“It is critical that all parties to this conflict protect civilians in Yarmouk and allow regular, uninterrupted humanitarian access to Yarmouk’s beleaguered population,” she said.
“While ISIL's advances pose an added, acute danger to Yarmouk's civilians, all besieged communities in Syria are enduring horrific hardship. More than 440,000 people are encircled in 12 separate locations across Syria. The terrible toll the war has taken on Syria’s civilians underscores the urgent need for a political solution to end the devastating conflict,” said Ambassador Power.
The United States calls on all parties to lift their siege of Yarmouk and allow for the safe evacuation of civilians in compliance with international law, grant civilians leaving Yarmouk immediate and safe passage, and do their utmost to keep families together.