Syrian forces target largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria

Screen grab from a video that shows army tanks inside Yarmouk camp.
 
In the past two days, fighting in Damascus has moved into areas of the capital previously believed untouchable. Whilst the president and his family have always been seen as strong allies of the Palestinian cause, on Wednesday Syrian forces attacked Yarmouk, a camp set up in the capital which houses thousands of Palestinian refugees.
 
Details remain unclear, but activist networks claim at 15 people were killed in the “Hajar Al Aswad” (“black stone”) district of the Yarmouk camp. Syrians have been using social media to call for shop-keepers there to keep their stores open in spite of the military presence in order to allow the camp’s residents to buy supplies.
 
It is not the first time that a Palestinian refugee camp has been struck by the Syrian army. In August 2011, soldiers attacked the Raml refugee camp in the northern city of Latakia. At the time, however, few Palestinians had joined the opposition. Most obeyed Palestinian authorities, who called for Palestinians in Syria to stay out of the conflict. The army’s intervention was designed to oust Syrian protesters hiding in the refugee camp.
 
Set up in 1957, Yarmouk is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. Eight kilometres from Damascus’ centre, it covers an area of two square kilometres. According to the United Nations, there are more than 144,000 people living in the camp, although not all are Palestinian refugees. Syrians with low incomes also live here.
Contributors

“Palestinian soldiers who have deserted the Liberation Army have come to take refuge here”

Jahida (not her real name) is a Palestinian mother living in the Yarmouk camp.
 
Bombing started Wednesday at around 5 p.m. and continued until 10 p.m. There was a two-hour cease-fire; then it started up again and continued until dawn. As well as the bombings, “chabbihas” (pro-regime militia) attacked the camp from the ground. Apparently they even stabbed people in their own homes.
 
Rescue workers have since made calls for blood donations. The wounded have been transported to the four small healthcare centres in the camp. One of them is a hundred metres from my home. I went there Wednesday evening. I saw a lot of young people who appeared to have knife wounds.
 
 
 
Smoke rising from Yarmouk camp.
 
“A lot of people are trying to leave, but entrances are guarded by security forces”
 
People living in the camp are in shock. We weren’t expecting such a sudden wave of violence. A lot of people are trying to leave, but the entrances are guarded by security forces.
 
They attacked because of the increasing number of opposition members living in the Hajar Al Aswad district. There were even anti-regime demonstrations here last week. I have learnt that deserters from the Liberation Army have also come to take refuge here [the Liberation Army is composed of Palestinians living in Syria, and is controlled by the government].
 
My family and I have decided to stay here because it is too dangerous to leave. But we’ve taken precautions: the bomb shelters have been cleaned, so if the situation gets worse, that’s where we’ll go [the Yarmouk camp’s Facebook page has a list of shelters set up for refugee families].
 
A Palestian soldier from the Liberation Army announces his desertion. 
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