UNRWA on Sunday expressed concern over the fate of some half a million Palestinian refugees living in war-torn Syria, particularly those residing in the Yarmuk neighborhood of Damascus.
“UNRWA views with increasingly grave concern the situation in Syria, particularly as regards the implications for the stability and protection of 500,000 Palestine refugees across the country,” the agency said.
“The current situation in the Damascus neighborhood of Yarmuk and in rural Damascus, home to both Syrian and Palestinian communities, is especially worrying,” it said, referring to a district which is home to more than 112,000 Palestinians.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which represents Palestinian refugees, also raised fears over the safety of its staff and offices in Syria as well as its ability to get access to those affected by the conflict.
UNRWA urged all those engaged in the conflict to take steps “to preserve human life, to avoid forced displacement and to exercise the utmost restraint” while demonstrating “respect for the neutrality and integrity of U.N.
installations” and places where refugees and other civilians live.
“UNRWA has appealed to the Syrian authorities to safeguard the security of Palestine refugees wherever they reside in Syria,” the agency said, indicating it would continue to monitor the situation as it evolves.
Damascus has been engulfed in clashes over the last week, with heavy fighting breaking out across several districts as the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad try to stamp out a nationwide uprising which is now in its 16th month.
More than 19,000 people have been killed, more than two-thirds of them civilians, since the revolt against the Assad regime erupted in March 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.
Syria is home to 486,000 Palestine refugees living in nine official and three unofficial camps, UNRWA statistics show.