Aid enters Yarmuk refugee camp for first time in four months
DAMASCUS - Food aid entered the besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria on Saturday for the first time in four months, a Palestinian official and Syrian state media said.
The delivery of food comes after reports that dozens of people in the camp in southern Damascus have died of hunger and lack of medical care.
"A first batch of food aid entered successfully this morning and distribution to residents has begun," Palestine Liberation Organisation official Anwar Abdul Hadi said.
Syrian state media also reported the delivery, citing a second Palestinian official.
Yarmuk has been largely under the control of opposition forces for months and government troops have imposed a suffocating siege that was tightened in September.
Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, said that the agency had donated 200 food parcels to be delivered to the camp through an intermediary.
He was not able to confirm whether the parcels were delivered during the operation, which he described as a trial effort to get aid into the camp.
"The Syrian authorities sought UNRWA's support," he said.
"UNRWA responded positively by donating the requested food parcels - not directly to the Palestinian factions - but through an intermediary," he added.
"UNRWA laid down an express condition that the food parcels must be distributed exclusively to civilians in need of assistance and that no part of the aid would be handed over or distributed to, or utilised by fighters or by people who are not civilians," said Gunness.
"UNRWA received assurances that the food parcels would be distributed and used in a neutral manner for humanitarian purposes."
Food aid has not been delivered to the camp since September 2013.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that 54 people have died in the camp since then from hunger or lack of medical care.
On Monday, UNRWA tried to send a six-truck convoy carrying food, medical supplies and polio vaccinations into Yarmuk but the mission was aborted after gunmen fired bullets near the convoy and a mortar shell exploded nearby.