Last updated: 15 January, 2014

Hamas urges militants to leave Damascus camp

Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas urged militants Wednesday to leave the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus in order to save residents from ongoing bloodshed.

“We urgently call all those carrying weapons in Yarmuk to leave the camp in order to save the lives of more than 50,000 civilians,” a statement said.

Hamas called for an “aid channel to be opened up immediately” to the camp, saying Palestinian refugees were not a “party to the conflict” and should be spared the violence of Syria’s nearly three-year civil war.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian minister accused “terrorists” fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of blocking aid access to the Yarmuk camp.

Palestinian labour minister Ahmad Majdalani, who was visiting Damascus to negotiate aid access to the camp, said its Palestinian residents must not be used as hostages in the conflict.

Rebels control swathes of Yarmuk, but for months government forces have imposed a suffocating siege on the camp, where some 20,000 Palestinians live despite terrible shortages.

Some 45 people have died in recent months because of food and medical shortages in Yarmuk, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said, with the most recent death on Tuesday.