UNITED NATIONS —
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Thursday that civilians in Syria and Yemen are being “willfully abandoned to misery.” He is urging the international community to press for an end to the violence and better protection of civilians.
Ban told reporters the crisis in Yemen has plunged an already very poor country into a severe humanitarian crisis. He said attempts by Houthi rebels to seize more territory violate U.N. Security Council resolutions. This has led to an escalation in the conflict, as a Saudi Arabian-led Arab coalition conducts airstrikes at the request of the beleaguered president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“The coalition air raids -- and the continuing attempts by the Houthis and their allied armed groups to expand their power - have turned an internal political crisis into a violent conflict that risks deep and long-lasting regional repercussions," said Ban. "The last thing the region and our world need is more of the chaos and crimes we have seen in Libya and Syria.”
The U.N. children’s agency - UNICEF - says that since fighting began on March 26, about 100,000 people have been displaced and at least 74 children killed. Some hospitals and medical facilities have been attacked and aid agencies are struggling to get in urgently needed assistance to civilians in several parts of the country.
Yarmouk refugee camp, near Damascus, Syria
Ban said the only solution is a quick return to U.N.-brokered political negotiations. He has urged the international community to do everything possible to make this happen.
Turning to the war in Syria, now in its fifth year, Ban said fighting there has sunk to new depths with the storming of the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees by fighters from the self-styled Islamic State and allied armed groups.
“In the horror that is Syria, the Yarmouk refugee camp is the deepest circle of hell," said Ban.
He said the 18,000 people living there, including thousands of children, face a double danger - armed elements inside the camp and government forces outside of it.
“A refugee camp is beginning to resemble a death camp,” he said.
He appealed to the international community, saying the world could not abandon the people of Yarmouk and simply “stand by and watch a massacre unfold.” Ban said civilians must be spared and must always be protected.