Hamas holds Gaza march for besieged Yarmouk refugees

PA official says IS jihadists are kidnapping, beheading and killing Palestinian refugees trapped in the Syrian camp

Palestinians are evacuated from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria, on February 2, 2014. (UNRWA/AFP)
Palestinians are evacuated from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria, on February 2, 2014. (UNRWA/AFP)

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Hundreds rallied Saturday in the Gaza Strip in support of thousands of fellow Palestinians trapped in Syria’s Yarmouk camp, which has been largely overrun by jihadist fighters.

Hundreds, many waving Hamas flags, took to the streets in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis in a march organized by the militant Islamic movement, the de facto power in the coastal enclave.

“We say it for the thousandth time: hands off the Yarmouk camp, hands off our people, hands off the slaughtered, killed and starved,” senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil told them.

He called on the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA to use all the influence at its disposal.

“Your role today is…to exert your pressure in order to find a way out for those besieged,” he said.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, a senior official in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank-based administration, decried in a statement “the persecution and slaughtering of Palestinian refugees… in a conflict that isn’t theirs.”

“Reports of kidnappings, beheadings and mass killings are coming out from Yarmouk, which is under a brutal campaign of murder and occupation at the hands of the terrorist group of Daesh and its allies,” he said.

Erekat was referring to the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda’s affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

A Syrian opposition official said on Saturday that thousands of Palestinian civilians are trapped in the Damascus camp Yarmouk, which is ringed by government forces as well.

“The priority must be to save the Palestinian refugees in the camp by creating a safe passage for them out of the death trap that Yarmouk has become,” said Erekat.

“We call upon the United Nations and other involved organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as the Syrian government to take all necessary measures to immediately evacuate civilians. Time is quickly running out.”

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi called for a united international effort to stop what she called “a heartbreaking catastrophe.”

“There is an urgent need for all countries to intervene immediately and work together to provide emergency relief and put an end to the bloodshed and the loss of innocent lives,” she said in a statement.

“We call on all members of the international community, particularly the United Nations, European Union and the United States, to safeguard the innocent people of Yarmouk and ensure that all sides commit to a permanent ceasefire.”

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