DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Food deliveries to thousands of people living in a blockaded area in southern Damascus ground to a halt after a truce collapsed and clashes broke out between Syrian rebels and forces loyal to the government, a U.N. official and activists said on Monday.
The clashes, which erupted out on Sunday afternoon and lasted until Monday morning, were the most serious violence in weeks in the Palestinian-dominated district of Yarmouk and seriously undermined a tentative truce struck there in early January.
A U.N. spokesman in Damascus, Chris Gunness, urged all parties to “immediately allow” the resumption of aid to the area, where malnutrition is rife.
The U.N. “remains deeply concerned about the desperate humanitarian situation in Yarmouk, and the fact that increasing tensions and resort to armed force have disrupted its efforts to alleviate the desperate plight of civilians,” Gunness said Monday.
Activists estimate that over 100 people have died of hunger or hunger-related illnesses since a blockade began nearly a year ago, preventing food and medical aid from entering Yarmouk.
The halt in the food distribution in Yarmouk also underscores problems that bedevil a Feb. 22 U.N. Security Council resolution that called on warring parties to facilitate food and aid deliveries to Syrians in need.
The latest clashes also sparked concerns for future aid deliveries.
“It will be like it was before. We are back to zero,” said a Yarmouk-based activist who uses the name Abu Akram.
The truce, which took months to negotiate, collapsed after rebel gunmen returned to Yarmouk on Sunday. They had withdrawn from the area about a month ago as part of the truce, replaced by a patrol of Palestinian gunmen, keeping out both rebels and fighters loyal to President Bashar Assad.
The rebels accused pro-Assad fighters of violating the truce, said Abu Akram. An activist group, “Palestinians of Syria” voiced similar accusations.
On Saturday, the rebels said Assad loyalists were sneaking weapons into Yarmouk under the guise of the joint patrols, delaying food distribution and arresting young men waiting for U.N. food parcels.
A day later, the rebels returned and clashes broke out between fighters of the Free Syrian Army, a Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front, and other groups, and soldiers and gunmen of Assad-loyal Palestinian groups on the other, Abu Akram said.
The clashes _ a mix of gun battles, sniper fire and mortar shells _ killed an ambulance driver, he added.
“Reconciliation efforts have, in my opinion, reached a deadlock,” said Anwar Raja, the spokesman for the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command.
Assad-loyal forces initially began blockading the camp to force out rebel gunmen.
Since the uprising began three years ago against Assad’s rule, blockades have played a key role in government efforts to crush rebels in their enclaves and strongholds.
The U.N. began distributing food to Yarmouk on Jan. 18 after warring parties agreed to a truce. The distribution was hindered by sporadic clashes, including on Feb. 7 and 8, said Gunness.
In total, the U.N. has distributed 7,708 food parcels to Yarmouk’s 18,000 registered Palestinian refugees. Activists say there are thousands more displaced Syrians also living in the district and suffering from malnutrition and food shortages.
Hadid reported from Beirut.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets