Syria: Resistance Mounts Against FSA in Palestinian Camp
By: Anas Zarzar
Published Monday, February 25, 2013
Damascus – Syria’s second largest Palestinian refugee camp, Khan al-Sheeh, has slowly been turned into a war zone, much like the Yarmouk camp before it. Over the past three weeks, large sections of the camp have been overrun by fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
At first camp residents responded with peaceful protests, but then turned to armed resistance when the FSA ignored their demands that the camp remain neutral in their battle against the regime.
Residents’ anger reached its peak the morning of Tuesday, 19 February, when those living in the eastern part of the camp awoke to a loud explosion triggered by a booby-trapped car, causing a number of injuries and damaging many homes.
FSA fighters arrived at the scene and began firing into the air to disperse those who had gathered in the area, prompting residents to shut down camp roads with burning tires and barricades in protest of the fighters’ behavior.
Young men from the camp and FSA fighters exchanged harsh words, which then quickly escalated into violent physical confrontations that led to two fighters being seriously injured.
By the evening, the two sides were exchanging gunfire, after camp residents – the majority of whom belong to bedouin tribes driven out of northern Palestine in 1948 – decided that this was the only way to drive out the FSA.
Abu Mohammed, 38, who participated in the fighting, explained that many in the camp bear arms, insisting that he “hasn’t shot a single bullet in the past 13 years, until the appropriate time came to do so.”
Many in Khan al-Sheeh followed the events in the Yarmouk camp, which had been taken over by the armed opposition months earlier, and did their best to make sure their camp does not go down the same road, but to no avail.
“There are more than 15,000 displaced refugees from Yarmouk living amongst us now,” said Abu Hani, who helps distribute aid to the displaced in the camp.
He added that they did their best to keep their camp neutral, insisting that no opposition fighters enter the camp. “We organized several demonstrations, calling on the FSA and the armed opposition to leave the camp so that it does not become a target for the Syrian army, but their response came hard and fast.”
Despite the fact that Khan al-Sheeh is surrounded by Syrian villages sympathetic to the opposition, the FSA decided to base its area operations in the camp. It has now been thrust unwillingly into the vortex of violence consuming many parts of the country.
Social activist Adham, 24, is not cowed by the armed fighters. He recalled the Nakba commemoration two years ago. “In 2011, this camp lost 22 martyrs in the occupied Golan as we faced down the occupation soldiers. It is not impossible for us to fight back against those who have breached the sanctity of our camp with our bare hands, no matter who they may be.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.