The United Nations is providing emergency assistance to some of the thousands of Palestinian refugees who have had to flee their homes in Syria in recent days amid mounting international concern at the violent crackdown by Government forces against civilian protesters.
Some 7,500 refugees across Syria have been displaced by the fighting, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported today. The agency said it is giving cash grants for food, medicine and temporary accommodation to about 6,000 people.
About 5,500 people are displaced from a refugee camp in Latakia, which came under sustained assault from Syrian Government forces last weekend. Dozens of people in the port city are reported to have been killed, and UN officials have voiced grave concern about the situation.
UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said that “many people around the world were shocked by the images of unarmed refugees being shot at as they fled from their homes, amid the firing on their refugee camp.”
Mr. Gunness said the refugees remain too frightened to return to their homes in the camp, which is located in the El Ramel district.
“UNRWA has not had access – draw your own conclusions about what that means about the security situation there and the state of the camp,” he said, adding that many of the displaced, “particularly the children and women, are traumatized and in a poor condition.”
Mr. Gunness paid tribute to local UNRWA staff who, with the cooperation of authorities in both Latakia and the capital, Damascus, have established a temporary office in Latakia outside the camp so that they can continue to provide essential services to the refugees.
The agency is also assisting about 220 refugees in Homs, another 190 people in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, and “a small but growing number of people” in Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city.
Around half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria are registered with UNRWA, which operates in Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in addition to Syria.
Meanwhile, on Monday the Human Rights Council will hold a special session in Geneva to discuss the latest developments and yesterday top UN officials briefed the Security Council about the crackdown, which could amount to crimes against humanity, according to a fact-finding mission by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
In a statement, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), said that while his office has received allegations of crimes against humanity, it has no jurisdiction to investigate because Syria is not a party to the statute setting up the court.
“The UN Security Council, however, has the authority to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC if it considers that justice will contribute to establishing peace and security in Syria,” he said.