Syria: Battles Return to Yarmouk Camp
By: Anas Zarzar
Published Friday, January 4, 2013
The ceasefire declared by Palestinian factions in Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus several weeks ago did not hold for long. The camp today is witnessing intense fighting after a brief lull, forcing residents to flee once again.
Fighting between the Popular Committees and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has gradually returned to Yarmouk over the past days, engulfing the majority of its streets and neighborhoods.
Rockets rained down around the clock at a rate of one every ten minutes on Loubia street in the camp’s center. The violence has prompted a new wave of displacement after many residents had returned following the declaration of the Palestinian factions’ ceasefire.
Thousands of refugees living in the camp congregate in the early morning hours around Syrian government offices hoping to get cleared for a border crossing into Lebanon.
“It seems that every Palestinian refugee is a terrorist until proven otherwise. Why would an old woman like myself require a security pass proving my innocence in order to go to Burj al-Barajneh camp in Lebanon to be with my relatives?” asks Umm Bashir.
Those who do not have relatives in Lebanon chose to remain in Syria. Buses carrying dozens of displaced camp residents arrived first at a school, but were prevented from entering by those guarding it. They ended up staying at an UNRWA trade school.
In addition to the almost non-stop bombardment of bullets and rockets, there have been bombings using rigged cars or explosive devices. The long hours they have to spend passing through security checkpoints have done little to prevent further attacks of this kind.
Yarmouk camp has had its share of bombings recently with four explosions taking place in various streets, killing and injuring dozens.
A recent survey by the New York Times newspaper shows that bombings of this kind is on the rise. Within the last two months alone, 365 such explosions have been documented.
“Every morning before I go to work, I kiss my children and say goodbye to my wife, as if it were the last time I am going to see them,” says Anwar, a 37-year-old Palestinian refugee.
“These bombings do not distinguish between an oppositionists and a loyalist, or between a Syrian and a Palestinian,” he adds. “Many times I wanted to stay at home, but my annual leave has run out and my job is my only source of income.”
In the meantime, living conditions in Syria have rapidly deteriorated with the onset of winter. Bread is becoming a luxury, while all means of heating are hard to come by – diesel is completely absent, cooking gas is rare, and electrical power is intermittent, particularly at night.
Nevertheless, security remains the number one priority for most Syrians. With every new bombing, people’s frustration with the warring sides grow, particularly in those areas which are subjected to security checkpoints, but to no avail.
“We stand for long hours waiting to be searched, and the next morning we wake up to another bombing,” says a Damascus university student. “Who can explain to the relatives of the dead and injured how the terrorists got through?”
Despite continued optimism that the insecurity is temporary, the almost daily explosions and the widespread armed clashes are reminders that the crisis is not ending anytime soon.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.