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In brief: Refugees suffer amid IS-Palestinians battle

From Wire Reports

BEIRUT – Palestinian fighters clashed with Islamic State militants in a heavily contested Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital on Monday as a United Nations official described the situation in the embattled camp as “beyond inhumane.”

The fighting in Yarmouk began Wednesday after the Islamic State group muscled into the camp, marking the extremists’ deepest foray yet into Damascus. The heavy clashes that have raged since then have added yet another layer of misery for up to 18,000 Yarmouk residents who have already endured desperate conditions marked by a lack of basic food, medicine and water.

The deteriorating situation prompted the U.N. Security Council to call an emergency meeting Monday to discuss Yarmouk and receive a closed-door videoconference briefing by the head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, Pierre Krahenbuhl, who called the humanitarian situation in the camp “completely catastrophic.”

The Security Council called for life-saving assistance and safe evacuation for the Palestinians, protection for the refugees, and humanitarian access to the camp – and said it will look into further measures to help achieve this.

The council also condemned “the grave crimes” committed by the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra against civilians in Yarmouk, and said their crimes must not go unpunished.

Czech president reacts to U.S. envoy’s rebuke

PRAGUE – Czech President Milos Zeman and the U.S. ambassador are in a rare public dispute over Zeman’s decision to attend a Russian military parade, and the country’s prime minister and Czech lawmakers are siding with the American.

In an interview Sunday with online publication Parlamentni Listy, Zeman bristled at the envoy’s implied criticism of his decision to attend Moscow’s traditional May 9 military parade despite tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Zeman said U.S. Ambassador Andrew Schapiro is no longer welcome at Prague Castle, the seat of the presidency.

“I think that the reaction of President Zeman was not adequate,” Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said.

“I would naturally welcome it if the (president’s) attitude to foreign policy in general was a bit more professional,” Sobotka told Czech public television on Monday. “We should be able to communicate with our friends and allies.”

The parliamentary speaker of the lower house, Jan Hamacek, said he thought Zeman was overreacting. The deputy speaker of Parliament’s upper house, Premysl Sobotka, said Zeman demonstrated a lack of “diplomatic thinking.”

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