Syrian forces are using starvation tactics against civilians, with at least 128 refugees starving to death at the besieged Yarmouk camp in Damascus, writes the BBC, citing Amnesty International reports.
Allegedly thousands of refugees trapped there are facing a "catastrophic humanitarian crisis". There is no food at the camp, and families have taken to the streets to forage for food, risking being shot by snipers. Fighting on the edge of the camp started again earlier this week.
Yarmouk camp, which is estimated to house around 17,000-20,000 Palestinian and Syrian refugees, has been home to some of the worst fighting in the capital. There has been no power supply since April 2013. Almost all of the hospitals have closed after running out of even the most basic medical supplies.
"Syrian forces are committing war crimes by using starvation of civilians as a weapon of war," says Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East director.
"The harrowing accounts of families having to resort to eating cats and dogs, and civilians attacked by snipers as they forage for food, have become all too familiar details of the horror story that has materialised in Yarmouk."
Residents told Amnesty that they have not eaten fruit or vegetables for months and at least 60% of people in Yarmouk are said to be suffering from malnutrition. Mr Luther demanded the Syrian government allow humanitarian agenciesimmediate access to the camp.
The camp initially served as a refuge for Palestinians fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war but it became a focus of heavy fighting in Damascus in late 2012 when opposition fighters moved in.
Last year the government cut the camp off completely, leaving 20 000 people stuck there. The majority of the 180,000 Palestinians at Yarmouk had fled before that.
The UN made some aid deliveries but these were stopped when a truce between rebels and pro-government Palestinian militants in the camp disintegrated.
Last month the UN Security Council agreed a resolution calling for all parties involved in the conflict to immediately lift sieges, but this has so far failed to lead to an improvement in the situation of besieged civilians.