Syria: Battles Return to Yarmouk Camp

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Palestinian women, who had been living at Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, wait outside the Lebanese immigration authority to have their papers stamped at the Lebanese-Syrian border, in al-Masnaa 18 December 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Jamal Saidi)

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.


In the current crises it is shameful that Palestinian refugees should be engulfed in this turmoil the international community needs to support the right of these refugees to return HOME to Palestine. The U.S. and its Saudi / GCC friends who are supporting the F.S.A. pretend to be worried about the plight of refugees yet they do nothing for the displaced Palestinian refugees in facilitating their lawful right of return to Palestine. Hypocrisy!

Why are the Palestinians In Syria and In any other Arab country, still refugees and not citizens?
The "right of return"to Israel and Palestine will be decided on fair terms when the time Is ripe. But keeping the Palestinians ,on refugee status, for decades, Is the Arab/Muslim crime.No nation (Palestine had never been a nation, they are people)on earth ,has been kept segregated,limited civil rights, limited right of movement,paperless,for so long.
Normal nations absorb the refugees In them,after time.
Keeping ppl on "refugee" status for as long as third generation Is the Arab way of discrimination,not brotherly love.Does anyone with a half brain really believe the Syrian Alawii refugees In Lebanon/Jordan and Turkey, will all go back to Syria after the fall Of Assad?It'll be bad enough when the Sunnis will take revenge on the Alawii minority In Syria.
So these 3 countries better prepare for tomorrow and think ahead about the Syrian problem.
As for the typical whine about the world being Indifferent to the Palestinian or Syrian catastrophe, I yet to hear a loud,clear united voice, from the Arab/Muslim corner.You expect the "west" to Intervene and then cry foul about "colonialism" and Interference In local Issues.
Same 'ol same 'ol.
God only helps those who help themselves.

Too easy. These are not refugees or migrants to be absorbed but deportees with the international recognised right to return home. Instead of repeating the nonsense about Palestine not being a nation (amusing considering that from this month it is a UN recognised State) start by asking your entity to get out of the land it occupies illegally – which in itself is a proven crime... and if you do not care about the UN resolutions allow me to remind you that your criminal entity was created in the first plave by said international institution that De Gaulle used to call Le Machin (The Thing).

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