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Syrian camp begins to get supplies to ease food shortages

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 6:54 p.m.

Food supplies began entering a besieged rebel-held Palestinian refugee camp in Syria's capital Saturday for the first time in months, an apparent goodwill gesture by the government before a peace conference, a Palestinian official said.

The flow of food into the Yarmouk refugee camp happened on Saturday as the Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, met in Istanbul, finally agreeing to participate in the peace conference this week aimed at ending the country's bloody civil war.

In Damascus, Anwar Raja, a spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, said the first batch of supplies entered the Yarmouk camp on Saturday.

Yarmouk is one of the areas hardest hit by food shortages in Syria. Residents there say 46 people have died since October of starvation, illnesses exacerbated by hunger or because they couldn't obtain medical aid.

Hundreds of boxes of food entered the camp, Raja said. Much of the material was carried by members of PFLP-GC members and committees in the camp.

“The process is moving slowly since they are being carried on the shoulder to avoid sniper fire,” Raja said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists around the country, said an elderly man died in the camp earlier on Saturday because of the food shortage.

PFLP-GC members are fighting against Syrian opposition fighters who control most of the camp.

The aim is to send 7,000 boxes for 7,000 families into the camp's rebel-held areas, Raja said. More food supplies will be sent into the camp in the coming days and, later, medical supplies will be sent as well.

Committees in the camp will hand over the food boxes to families by name “so that (opposition) gunmen don't take them,” he said.

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