UNRWA Syria crisis situation update - 21 December 2012

Note: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will disseminate information about the situation of Palestine refugees in Syria. 21 December 2012

In a statement issued on Sunday night UNRWA expressed “extreme worry and grave concern” about the unfolding situation there. UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi has appealed to the Syrian authorities, and all parties to the conflict, to safeguard the security of Palestine refugees wherever they reside in Syria, and the Agency emphasized the urgent nature of his appeal following Sunday's events.
Yarmouk refugee camp is reportedly calm after days of intense fighting that led to the displacement of tens of thousands of Palestine refugees. Unconfirmed information by a small number of refugees that visited the camp today indicated the disappearance of armed opposition elements. This information is noteworthy in light of reports that point to efforts by Palestinian factions to forge an agreement to remove armed groups from both sides of the conflict out of the camp. Occasional shelling reportedly continues in the areas surrounding Yarmouk and Sbeineh refugee camps, with Sbeineh camp accessible today.

Northwest of Damascus remained calm today, with clashes and shelling reported around Darayya neighborhood and the adjacent military airport, with sounds clearly audible from UNRWA’s Field Office in the area.

Facilities in the Yarmouk, Douma and Jaramana refugee camps remain closed today due to access restrictions, although schools in the camps continue to shelter IDPs. UNRWA facilities in Set Zaynab, Husseiniyah and Khan Dunoun were operated by staff living within these camps. Khan Eshieh refugee camp in the Southwest remained calm and accessible on Friday.

Jaramanah, to the east of Yarmouk saw an escalation of activity, with reports of intensive clashes and explosions on Friday, although camps in the area remain relatively calm, with Husseiniyah refugee camp sheltering a number of refugees from Yarmouk. There have been reports that clashes broke out in the Qaboun neighbourhood, where UNRWA maintains some installations.

As clashes and shelling continue around various parts of Aleppo, refugee camps in the city are relatively calm. UNRWA Area Office continued its operations without electricity, distributing cash to refugees from Ein el Tal. Some clashes continue around Ein el Tal and Neirab camps and access to both remains a concern although not impossible. The camps themselves however remained relatively calm and facilities in both camps were again operational today.

The city of Dera'a remained relatively calm on Friday, with the exception of two shells in the immediate vicinity of Dera’a refugee camp that killed a child. On a more positive note, Palestine refugees managed to enter and fix some of the damage to the Dera’a health centre caused by a recent shelling. Facilities in the city remained closed as a precautionary measure, while facilities in the villages resumed operations. The town itself was deserted on Friday, with unconfirmed reports of snipers preventing people from moving about.

Homs and Latakia cities are calm, and refugee camps accessible, although in Homs, sporadic gunfire sound has been reported overnight, around the camp.

Highlights:

  • 4,180 IDPs in UNRWA facilities in the Damascus area, with more than 1,500 IDPs arriving as of 19 December.

  • 1,500 IDPs reported to be accommodated by the local community in Khan Eshieh camp

  • Approximately 2,000 refugees have reportedly headed to Homs

  • Vast majority of UNRWA staff have now left Yarmouk

  • 700 staff and their families fled to the Damascus Training Centre (DTC) in Mezzeh on Sunday and Wednesday.

  • 1,200 IDPs sheltering in a school in Khan Eshieh Camp

  • At least seven government schools around Yarmouk are also sheltering IDPs

  • UNRWA staff accommodating those who have already left Yarmouk

    UNRWA response to the recent escalation (as of 21 December 2012):

  • 200 family food parcels provided to IDPs in UNRWA schools in the DTC and Mezzeh since fighting broke out this weekend

  • 1,719 blankets distributed to the DTC, Mezzeh and Khan Eshieh

  • 6,000 mattresses sent to the DTC, Mezzeh and Khan Eshieh

  • Additional mattresses, blankets, family food parcels and water will be delivered to DTC, Alliance, Jaramana, Mezzeh, Khan Eshieh and Ramadan Camp through other UN agencies and SARC