Too poor to flee to Turkey, families sleep in cars

 
For the past week, forces from the Syrian state army have been fighting to dislodge rebels in the countryside northwest of Hama. This has sent thousands of villagers fleeing, with many setting up makeshift camps or living in their cars.
 
Fighting has intensified since Monday, with local opposition activists reporting the use of ground and air missiles on the part of the regime. The Hama opposition coordination committees report 20 deaths and approximately 200 injured in the past week, with civilians making up about two-thirds of these numbers.
 
According to our Observer, about ten displaced families are living in this tent in the mountains.
 
Various rebel groups are fighting in this region, including the Al-Nusra Front, which the United States says has ties to al-Qaeda. The group claimed in a statement posted online that it was responsible for a suicide bombing that killed 42 people at the headquarters of a pro-government militia in the town of Salmiyeh, in Hama province, last Monday. The Syrian government denounced this as a terrorist act it believes was masterminded by Al-Qaeda. The city of Hama itself remains under government control.
 
According to the UN Refugee Agency, an estimated 1.5 to 2.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced since the start of the uprising, now in its second year. The United Nations is currently holding a global donors meeting in Kuwait to try to raise funds for humanitarian relief efforts inside the country, which some critics have blasted as a “handout” to the Syrian government.
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“Many of them don’t want to go too far from their villages, because they’re farmers who can’t afford to abandon their cattle”

Mousab Alhamadee is a member of the local coordination committee in Hama. He filmed the above video of families displaced by the fighting.
 
Today [Monday], I travelled to places where displaced people had relocated after fleeing from their villages, which have become a battlefield between the Free Syrian army and the regime. Many of them have taken refuge in neighbouring towns and villages where there is no shelling; others that have money are on their way to Turkey to go to refugee camps there. It’s very expensive to go there – you have to pay a taxi to take you to the border. There are also quite a few people who don’t want to go too far from their villages, because they’re farmers with cattle and sheep and chicken. They’ve left their animals with as much food as they could and are waiting for a lull in the fighting to go back and check on them.
 
“We don’t see any of the money donated by Arab states here, on the ground, where people really need it”
 
Some of them have tents with them. I saw about ten families living in one big tent up in the mountains, which they had taken from a mosque. These tents are usually used during funerals, to shelter people who come to pay their respect to the deceased’s family. I saw others sleeping in their cars. Yet others have nothing and have to ask for help from strangers. Some of the locals who can afford it bring them food and blankets, but overall, there is very little help for these people.
 
We keep hearing every day on the news that Arab countries are donating lots of money to the Syrian people, but we don’t see any of it here on the ground. [Editor’s Note: Some 50 nations pledged more than 100 million dollars in aid to the opposition at a December conference, but it is unclear how much has come through. Gulf states have yet to make good on a pledge made last April to create a fund to support opposition groups inside Syria. However, an exiled Syrian businessman who recently launched a fund has hinted at strong financial support from Gulf states.] Where does this money go? Personally, I think it must be used to house the opposition abroad in 5-star hotels. Here, we feel that they are not serious about letting their money get into Syria to the people who really need it.
 
This displaced family is sleeping in a truck. Photo by our Observer.

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