Amnesty International: Syrian government ‘using starvation as weapon of war’

Residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp just south of Damascus are starving, and many are resorting to eating cats and dogs and foraging for weeds, as the Syrian civil war enters its fourth year, a new Amnesty International report states.

The report released Monday says the Syrian government is using starvation as a weapon of war against civilians in the besieged camp.

“The harrowing accounts of families having to resort to eating cats and dogs, and civilians attacked by snipers as they forage for food, have become all too familiar details of the horror story that has materialized in Yarmouk,” said Amnesty’s Middle East director Philip Luther in a statement.

According to the report, most entry of food, people and goods has been barred at government-controlled checkpoints surrounding the camp since Jan. 18, except for intermittent distributions.

Amnesty estimates that some 17,000 to 20,000 Palestinian refugees and Syrian nationals still remain in the camp, where starvation is the main cause of death. The report looks at 194 recorded civilian deaths in the camp between July 2013 and Feb. 22, 2014. Of the group, 128 people — or two thirds — died from starvation. Other causes of death included lack of adequate medical care and shootings by snipers.

“I eat anything that I can get my hands on. I eat on average one meal every 30 hours. Either we have to go to the small field areas overlooked by snipers, looking for herbs, or group together to buy a kilo of rice or lentils at 10,000 Syrian pounds and cook it, but we cannot afford to do this each day due to the cost,” one Syrian national living in the camp told Amnesty International in February.

Syrian government forces patrolling the area surrounding the camp once allowed people to forage for weeds and leaves in the past, but now the situation has changed. The camp has been without electricity, running water and adequate medical resources for more than a year.

Yarmouk refugee camp was created for Palestinians fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Many Palestinians have fled the camp since heavy fighting started there in 2012.

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