UNRWA struggles to support Yarmouk residents

12:00 Apr 29 2015 Yarmouk Refugee Camp, Syria

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The US government announced a $6 million contribution to UNRWA earlier this week, in one of the few responses to the agency's call on April 17 for funds to support the devastated Yarmouk refugee camp

"We are deeply grateful for all the support we have received from the US for our efforts to help citizens survive this tragedy," said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl following the donation on April 24.

The UNRWA Regional Syria Crisis Appeal for 2015 has only received 20 percent of the funding needed to support the over half a million Palestinian refugees affected by the past five years of Syrian civil war and recent incursions by the Islamic State group, including the IS invasion of Yarmouk on April 1.

"After enduring four years of conflict, two of them under siege-like conditions, and the suffering created by armed groups, the civilians in Yarmouk are at a breaking point."

The pledge comes the coalition of extremist militants continue to gain against the military in northern Syria.

On Saturday, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front fighters and other rebel groups took the key regime town of Jisr al-Shughur in the northwest less than a month after seizing Idlib.

The entry of the Islamic State group into Yarmouk was the closest militants had advanced to Damascus at the time, sowing seeds of panic among Damascus residents.

"If the jihadists enter Damascus they'll massacre people they see as close to the regime and the others will have to flee," warned tailor Hashem, a Damascus local.

"In any case, the city will be destroyed just like the Palestinian refugee camp recently at Yarmouk," Hashem said.

While but most of the damage in the camp there dates from clashes between regime forces and rebels in 2013, and a government siege that was held on the camp ever since, the IS invasion into the camp has brought further trauma to the devastated population.

UNRWA highlighted that further donations are necessary in order to provide aid relief to the approximately 18,000 civilians, including 3,500 children, trapped inside the camp.

While IS militants were allegedly losing ground to Palestinian fighters in the camp in recent weeks according to Palestinian officials, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has also reported that IS and al-Nusra Front remain in control of 80 percent of the camp.

AFP contributed to this report.
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