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Syria's Yarmouk Camp Between the Hammer of Hunger and the Anvil of Extremism

Syrian-Palestinians are eating from the garbage.

Syrian-Palestinian eating from the garbage. Photograph taken 03/03/2015 by LensDimashqi on Tumblr. Used under CC.BY. 2.0

A total of 18,000 Palestinian refugees living in “inhumane conditions” in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Damascus, Syria, are trapped between the hammer of hunger and the anvil of extremism.

Bombed by the Syrian regime and now under attack by ISIS since April 1, the Palestinian refugees have already been under a two-year siege, with no water and very little food trickling in. The camp is located around 10 miles away from the presidential palace, but this did not stop Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's regime from dropping barrels bombs over the heads of the people, who retreated to their food-empty residences, afraid to venture out to streets full of armed extremists. According to news being circulated on social media, ISIS is arresting, executing and beheading the camp figures and clashing with other opposition armed groups.

Many activists blame the ISIS invasion on the Assad regime's army giving them the opportunity to do so. They note that at a time when it is impossible to enter food and medical aid to the Palestinian refugee camp, ISIS militias appeared suddenly inside the camp.

The Hammer, Starve to Death

“To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water, heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood.” – Anas, Yarmouk resident.

According to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), this is the situation of 18,000 Palestinian refugees of the 160,000 who used to live in the camp. They remain trapped in Yarmouk Camp with no successful distribution of food and other relief aid since December 6, 2014. Although people took the streets on January 18, 2015, to protest the siege imposed by the Assad regime since July 2013, the crisis has left at least 200 people dead from starvation. After a year of posting a video showing the despair of distributing food in Yarmouk Camp, another documentary, entitled Siege, emerged from the heart of the camp on April 3. The short film records the daily life in four sketches that reflect how people suffers from food and utilities shortages.

Another video posted on February 6, 2015, by Sami Alselwadi shows a Palestinian refugee resident blaming his government for leaving the camp to starve to death without taking action against Assad regime. Then the footage moves to a what is believed to be a truck full of bread being distributed to people by throwing the packages to the air for a lucky catcher. In his words, the man blames Mahmood Abbas, the Palestinian president:

All this is hunger, Abbas. You are in Ramalla, and you don't know what your Palestinian people are suffering here. Thousands of people are in hunger here. Where are you from this? Shame on you.

ISIS claims it is there to help the besieged refugees of Yarmouk Camp. But this is what they do.

ISIS claims it is there to help the besieged refugees of Yarmouk Camp. But this is what they do. Photo via @AlaaAllagta. Used under CC. BY 2.0

The Anvil, Extremism to Death

As of April 1, reports on social media confirmed that ISIS forces have entered the besieged camp and now control 90% of the camp. Netizens are closely following the news flood of this dramatic development. Twitter users reported that ISIS entered the camp after Al Nusra front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda in the Levant, eased their access from Hajar Aswad, a neighboring town.

Tom Finn and Linah Alsaafin explain the sudden appearance of ISIS and how they approached the camp from a neighboring town:

While Talal Alyan shares a photograph from inside the camp:

A map of the parties who control the camp was shared by Rami Allolah with his 16K followers on Twitter, showing the fragmented area controlled between ISIS, Palestinian armed groups, FSA (Free Syrian Army), the Assad army and Al Nusrah.

Activists didn't wait for long to report ISIS’ horrifying killings, which started to spill into the news stream as Raqqa_SI confirmed to his 21K+ followers:

Also read: The Situation in Yarmouk Refugee Camp has Reached Catastrophic Levels

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