AMMAN (Ma’an) — The head of the Palestinian National Council, Salim Zanoun, has called on the Palestinian leadership to speed up efforts to resolve the ongoing Yarmouk crisis.
Zanoun said that residents of the beleaguered refugee camp don’t need discussion, but political and material support.
His comments were directed at the PNC’s executive committee, the highest executive body of the PLO, which is composed of 18 members. The executive committee is elected by the much larger PNC, which has nearly 700 members.
Zanoun made his comment as he met with PNC members in Amman to discuss the crisis in Syria, among other issues.
He called on PNC members across the occupied Palestinian Territories to donate to residents of Yarmouk camp, saying it was “a national duty.”
A one-week period has been set in which to raise donations, and Zanoun added that the council had so far raised 13,150 Jordanian Dinars ($18,600).
On Saturday, two senior UN officials were headed Saturday for Syria on an “urgent mission” to aid the thousands of civilians that remain trapped in Yarmouk.
Pierre Krahenbuhl, who heads the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, is meeting Syrian officials to discuss the delivery of aid to the camp which has been stormed by Islamic State group militants.
He is also due to meet displaced refugees on Sunday at a school near the camp.
Also in Damascus, the UNRWA chief is to meet deputy special envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, sent on Friday by UN chief Ban Ki-moon who has warned of a “massacre” in the camp.
The visit is “prompted by UNRWA’s deepening concerns for the safety and protection of some 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian civilians, including 3,500 children” still in the camp, the agency said in a statement.
Refuge in schools
According to Palestinian sources, some 2,500 of the remaining civilians have now taken refuge in Damascus schools.
“I don’t have the strength to walk any more,” said Umm Mohammed, a woman in her 70s, in a video distributed to media organisations by an activist, Rami el-Sayyed.
“I haven’t left my house for fear of it being looted. But if they open the road, I don’t want to stay any more,” she said.
“We left Palestine and we’re still suffering. What did the Palestinians do to deserve all this?”
Yarmouk, which is Syria’s largest refugee camp lying seven kilometers south of Damascus, was initially attacked by IS on April 1, and the group subsequently took over up to 90 percent of the camp.
Armed Palestinian factions have fought back and Syria’s air force has struck IS positions in the camp.
Although the PLO has publicly rejected involvement in a military campaign, citing a longstanding policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab nations, on Saturday PLO envoy to Syria Ahmed Majdalani said the situation was out of the hands of the Palestinian leadership.
Majdalani told Ma’an that the resort to military action had been imposed on Palestinian groups by IS, and that negotiations would not be workable.
Fighting south of Damascus
In fighting south of Damascus, meanwhile, 35 people were killed as pro-government forces repelled an attack on a key military airport by IS-affiliated militants, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack targeted the outskirts of Khalkhalah military airport in Sweida province on Friday.
Syria’s official news agency SANA said the army had “blocked attempts from IS terrorists to infiltrate” areas near the airport.
Khalkhalah lies along a major highway between Damascus and the regime-held city of Sweida, a stronghold of the Druze minority that has largely avoided the bloodshed of Syria’s war.
The attack on Khalkhalah was the first by IS, but the airport has been previously targeted by rebels and Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.
In the northern city of Aleppo, at least 10 civilians were killed in rebel shelling of a Christian district and 10 others in regime bombardment of an area under rebel control, according to the Observatory.
More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria’s four-year war, which is increasingly dominated by extremist groups.
AFP contributed to this report.