Shortages kill 63 in Syrian camp

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iol pic wld Mideast Lebanon Syria Refugees Vaccination~3 AP Syrian displaced children line up to receive vaccination against polio at one of the Syrian refugee camps.

Beirut - A shortage of food and medical supplies has left dead at least 63 people, including women and children, in a besieged Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, a Syrian monitor said Friday.

The Yarmuk camp in southern Damascus has been choked by the army since June, along with other opposition-held areas across Syria, mostly around the capital and in the central city of Homs.

“The number of people who have died in Yarmuk camp as a result of their poor health and living conditions, and the severe lack of food and medicine has risen to 63,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Conditions in Yarmuk have deteriorated in recent months, with the price of food and other basic goods skyrocketing, if they were at all available.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Observatory, told AFP that “22 of the dead were women, and three were children”.

Food aid entered Yarmuk last week for the first time in four months.

UN rights chief Navi Pillay has warned blocking assistance to civilians “in desperate need may amount to a war crime”.

Activists in other besieged areas have also complained of dismal conditions.

In Homs, activists say hundreds of families have been holed up for nearly 600 days in a handful of rebel-held districts.

They come under near-daily shelling, and activists there say they have run out of most food supplies, and that residents now have little more than olives to survive on.

Seeking to shed light on their circumstances, activists in Homs launched a campaign this week, putting up yellow signposts inscribed with slogans describing life in the besieged areas.

“For two years, 300 children have had no schooling,” reads one, according to photographs shared by Homs-based activist Yazan.

“One hundred people need urgent surgery,” reads another, held up by a young man on one of Homs' heavily damaged streets.

In the Eastern Ghouta area east of Damascus, conditions are also dire, said activist Tareq al-Dimashqi, who spoke to AFP via the Internet.

“No one can provide for themselves, and when food does come in, it is at crazy prices,” he said.

Meanwhile fighting raged across Syria, the Observatory said, as the so-called Geneva II peace talks offered no respite to the country.

Warplanes bombarded Daraya southwest of Damascus, while troops shelled Eastern Ghouta where rebels were battling regime forces backed by Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and the Iraqi Abul Fadl al-Abbas brigade.

Clashes continued in the historic Old City area of Aleppo, Syria's onetime commercial capital, now ruined a year and a half on from a massive rebel offensive.

At Raqa in the north, back under jihadist control after rival rebels tried to push them out, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant publicly beheaded two men accused of “insulting the prophet Mohamed,” said activists from the city.

In early January, rebels fighting to topple Assad launched a major offensive against ISIL, whose quest for hegemony and horrific abuses have raised the ire of much of the opposition.

Syria's war has killed more than 130 000 people in nearly three years, and forced millions more to flee their homes.


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