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Palestinians Suffer Disproportionately in Syria War

The most visible example of the Palestinian tragedy in Syria is the destruction of the camps
Palestinians Suffer Disproportionately in Syria War

According to most commonly cited statistics, there are 600,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria, 465,000 of whom are registered with UNRWA; the other 135,000 come from Jordan, Gaza and Lebanon and are not registered by the UN.


Prior to the revolution in Syria, Palestinians were spread in camps across Syria, but over two thirds lived in Damascus, most in Moukhayam Al-Yarmook (Yarmook camp), which is not registered by UNRWA as a camp, depsite being home to some 160,000 refugees. Many also lived in Jaramana, Saida Zainab, Khan al-Sheikh, Khan Danoun and Sbeineh, in addition to Moukhayam al-Wafdeen (Arrivals camp), Alramadan, Barzeh, Mazzeh, Rokn Elddine, Jobar and Qaboun in Damascus province. The other third lived in camps other cities including Daraa, Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Latakia.


In Syria, Palestinians were not legally classified as Syrian citizens, even though, under Syrian law they are granted the right to Syrian nationality after five years of consecutive residency in Syria. However, Syria's political position on the "preservation of the Palestinian national identity" meant that many Palestinian refugees are prevented from getting Syrian nationality.


Palestinians have lived in Syria for decades, some were even born there, and many were were given temporary residency cards and travel documents. Economically, they were also given the right to work, just like Syrians.  


The daily life for Palestinians has been greatly affected by the devastating crisis in Syria, particularly for those living in camps. Many were forced to migrate to other parts of Syria or abroad, meaning second and third generation refugees are now facing internal displacement from their country of birth.


Many have also been exposed to grave violations over the course of the conflict. 2,402 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, including 37 killed abroad, 35 who died while trying to escape to Europe, and two who were killed when the IDF bombed their houses after they had escaped to Gaza, according to the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria.


The Palestinian League for Human Rights has documented 221 Palestinian refugees tortured to death inside regime prisons, while five were killed by the armed opposition. The highest percentage of death from hunger was recorded in Yarmook camp, where a harsh government siege has been in place restricting the entry of food or medication to the camp for over a year.


Reports about the number of displaced Palestinians inside Syria have varied. One report indicated that 75% of refugees were displaced because the camps had been destroyed by the bombing and the continued clashes. Over 160,000 refugees have left Syria either to neighboring countries or to distant countries, mostly illegally. About 54,000 are located in Lebanon according to UNRWA statistics, in addition to 5,000 in Jordan, 1,000 refugee of whom live in the Cyber City camp which has reportedly very bad conditions. The rest entered Jordan during the first months of the crisis and live in different cities.


Around 1,200 Palestinian refugees are located in Egypt, and about 5,000 in Turkey, while the highest percentage is located in Scandinavian countries, Europe, Eastern Asia and the U.S. These estimates are based on approximate statistics carried out by committees and organizations in neighboring and other countries where Palestinians had moved in, in addition to UNRWA data.


The most visible example of the Palestinian tragedy in Syria is the destruction of the camps. Some of the camps have been almost completely destroyed, including Daraa camp, Sbieneh camp and the camp at Saida Zainab in Damascus countryside. Others have been partially destroyed, like the Yarmouk camp, where 30% of homes have been directly targeted and destroyed. Handarat camp in Aleppo has also been targeted by explosive barrels since the beginning of March 2014, forcing most of its residents to migrate to the Syrian Turkish borders.


Almost all numbers and statistics which document violations against Palestinians in Syria reveal serious breaches of human rights and refugee laws in what could be described international crimes against humanity under the Rome Charter. The Syrian regime and its supporting militias are responsible for most of these crimes, such as the torture and murder of Palestinian prisoners, and the siege of Yarmook camp which caused the death of dozens of civilians from hunger, the preventing food and medicine as well as the targeting of civilians with explosive barrels and heavy weaponry.


Some violations against Palestinian refugees committed by the brigades of the armed opposition were also documented, such as the execution of five people in Yarmook camp on various charges without trail and the forced displacement of residents in the Handarat camp in Aleppo after the armed oposition took control of the camp in 2012.


The two main parties to the conflict – the regime and the opposition – are not the only ones responsible for violations against Palestinians. UNRWA has made several positions that are incompatible with its mandate as a humanitarian organization that watches over refugees rights, including stopping aid and services to the refugees in areas controlled by the armed opposition, and lack of care for refugees who left to countries where UNRWA operates. In addition, in areas where UNRWA doesn’t operate, like Egypt and Turkey, the UNHCR has refused to consider Palestinian refugees under its mandate, depriving thousands of families from an international reference to deal with their humanitarian situation.




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