Syria: UN agency ready to expand aid work in Yarmouk, if reported truce holds

AMMAN, Jordan: Following a reported ceasefire in the besieged Yarmouk camp in Syria, the United Nations agency that administers aid to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East said it is ready to resume and expand its humanitarian activities as soon as it has access to the site.

It has been more than two weeks since the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was able to distribute any aid to the estimated 18,000 civilians trapped “in desperate conditions” in the camp.

According to the spokesman Chris Gunness, the agency has received “credible information” about an agreement signed between Syrian authorities and armed opposition groups inside Yarmouk.

“We would welcome any durable and binding agreement that achieves a cessation of hostilities, full humanitarian access and an end to the suffering of civilians in Yarmouk and all of Syria,” Mr. Gunness said.

He underscored that the UNRWA is urgently seeking the immediate resumption and expansion of its humanitarian activities inside Yarmouk to enable it to offer a full range of humanitarian supplies, services and programmes to the civilians.

“UNRWA stands ready to implement a rapid humanitarian response so that the immediate and longer term needs of Yarmouk s civilian population can be met,” said Mr. Gunness.

Prior to the armed conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, Yarmouk, which is based in Damascus, was home to over 160,000 Palestine refugees. Since December 2012, fighting has caused at least 140,000 Palestine refugees to flee their homes in Yarmouk, as armed opposition groups established a presence in the area, with Government forces controlling the periphery