UN demands access to Yarmouk refugee camp seized by Islamic State

GWEN IFILL: The United Nations is demanding immediate access to Palestinian refugee camp in Syria that's come under Islamic State control. About 18,000 civilians at the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus are caught in the crossfire. One U.N. official described the scene there as beyond inhumane.

Paul Davies of Independent Television News narrates our report.

PAUL DAVIES: Syria's civil war has reduced many communities to rubble. Yarmouk on the outskirts of Damascus is particularly tragic, for the civilians caught in the crossfire are not even Syrian. They are Palestinian refugees who came here to escape their own conflicts, only to find themselves in the middle of someone else's, and at what a price.

Yarmouk, officially a refugee camp, became a battleground because fighters from groups aligned to Islamic State moved in and used it as their base. The Syrian army responded, bombarding the area, effectively placing Yarmouk and all those who have taken shelter there under siege.

The U.N. has become increasingly concerned about a developing humanitarian crisis. Last year, a U.N. photographer captured this remarkable picture of a civilian population trapped in a war zone. It's estimated 18,000 Palestinian men, women and children remain in Yarmouk.

Today, the Security Council said it was time for intervention.

DINA KAWAR, President, United Nations Security Council: The members called for the protection of civilians in the camp, for ensuring humanitarian access to the area, including by providing lifesaving assistance.

PAUL DAVIES: But getting help to trapped civilians is not possible while Islamic State and other groups are locked in war with President Assad's military.

Humanitarian groups are calling on all powers that have influence over the men with guns to use it to organize a cease-fire that would allow an evacuation of noncombatants.

 

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