Joint List: ISIS Assault on Yarmouk Camp Serves Israel Occupation

The recent deadly assault by Islamic State (ISIS) forces on Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus “serves the Israeli occupation,” Knesset members from the Joint List said in a statement on Tuesday, April 7. The MKs argued that that the Palestinian cause “unites all Arabs everywhere” and should give Palestinian refugees immunity from the internal strife of host states.

One of the streets of Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus.

One of the streets of Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus. (Photo: UNRWA)

“What is happening in the Yarmouk refugee camp with ISIS fighters who have taken control of the area and are using the refugees as human shields, only serves the enemies of the Arab nations and the enemies of the Palestinian people and their just cause,” reads the statement, which was posted Tuesday on the Joint List’s Facebook page in Arabic. The Islamic State launched a terrorist attack on the camp last week, reportedly killing and beheading Palestinian men and imprisoning women and children. The heavy clashes which have raged since then have added yet another layer of misery for up to 18,000 Yarmouk residents who have already endured desperate conditions marked by a lack of basic food, medicine and water.

“What’s happening to the Palestinian people is a war crime and a crime against humanity and we hold UNRWA accountable, as they are expected to provide protection for these people. We ask the Red Cross and international NGOs to urgently intervene and help establish a humane passageway for the injured and the civilians in the camp,” read the Joint List’s statement. The MKs also called on Arab nations, many of which are going through domestic unrest, to exempt Palestinian refugee camps from their struggles.

The deteriorating situation In Yarmouk prompted the UN Security Council to call an emergency meeting Monday and receive a closed-door video-conference briefing from the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Pierre Krahenbuhl, who called the humanitarian situation in the camp “completely catastrophic.” The Security Council called for life-saving assistance and safe evacuation for the Palestinians, protection for the refugees, and humanitarian access to the camp — and said it will look into further measures to help achieve this.

The council also condemned the grave crimes committed by the Islamic State group the an-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-affiliate – which reportedly aided the ISIS assault – against civilians in Yarmouk, and said their crimes must not go unpunished. ISIS and an-Nusra have fought bloody battles against each other in other parts of Syria, but appear to be cooperating in the attack on Yarmouk.

The United Nations says the civilians trapped in Yarmouk include a large number of children. The camp has been under government siege for nearly two years, leading to starvation and illnesses. The camp has also witnessed several rounds of ferocious and deadly fighting between government forces and anti-Assad militants.

The Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour urged the UN council to take action to ensure safe passage for the besieged refugees and appealed to all nations to help them relocate to safer areas in Syria or in other countries. Mansour said about 2,000 of the estimated 18,000 refugees in Yarmouk had made it to safety on their own.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told The Associated Press in Barcelona late Sunday that the agency has not been able to send any food or convoys into the camp since the fighting started. “That means that there is no food, there is no water, and there is very little medicine,” he said. “The situation in the camp is beyond inhumane. People are holed up in their houses, there is fighting going on in the streets. There are reports of … bombardments. This has to stop and civilians must be evacuated.”