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Aid convoy enters Damascus camp for first time in months

UNRWA chief joins aid convoy into Syria's besieged Yarmouk camp
Palestinian refugees receive aid items distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) at the Yarmouk refugee camp, south of Damascus, on 10 March, 2015 (AFP)

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees accompanied the first aid convoy in three months to enter the besieged Yarmouk camp in the Syrian capital on Tuesday.

Pierre Krahenbuhl said it was "totally unacceptable" that the 18,000 residents of Yarmouk had not received aid for so long.

The camp, the largest in Syria, has been under army siege for more than a year in a government bid to force rebels against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad to surrender.

More than 200 of the camp's residents have been killed since the siege began, among them dozens who have died of starvation, Syrian non-governmental groups say.

"There should be distributions more regularly during the week, not just one day and interrupted again," Krahenbuhl told AFP.

The last UNRWA aid delivery was in December, "which from a human point of view is totally unacceptable".

"Certainly there should be no limit to the number of people that we can support in this on a daily basis. This is the thing that has to continue to improve," he said.

Krahenbuhl said he has received "strong messages from the government of their commitment to this happening," after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Damascus on Monday.

"There has to be a solution to this situation," said Krahenbuhl, who also urged rebel groups not to "interfere with distributions" of aid.

More than 160,000 people - both Palestinian and Syrian - lived in Yarmouk before the start of the conflict in Syria that will enter its fifth year on Sunday.

"As Syria’s civil war enters its fourth year, other towns and villages are suffering long sieges, usually by Assad’s forces but sometimes, as in the case of Nubul and Zahra, two Shia villages north-west of Aleppo, by anti-Assad rebels," wrote Jonathan Steele in the Guardian.

"Still, Yarmouk stands out, partly because of the large number of trapped civilians – estimated to be around 18,000 – but also because of its political significance," he added, in a reference to the government's proclamation that it is a cornerstone of the Arab "axis of resistance" against Israel.