Palestinian Official: Political Decision Needed to Save Yarmouk Camp

Palestinian Official: Political Decision Needed to Save Yarmouk Camp

A woman standing in front of the rubble of her destroyed house in the Yarmouk Camp - 2018 (Yarmouk Camp News)

Secretary-General of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) Khaled Abdul Majid said the reconstruction plan proposed by Damascus Governorate has failed to take into account the historical and political significance of the camp, which stands as a witness to the Palestinian refugee plight and to Palestinians’ commitment to their right of return to their motherland—Palestine.

The Palestinian leader said the Yarmouk file cannot be handled on exclusively technical grounds and that any proposed reconstruction plan should take into account the socio-historical identity of the camp.

He said the Palestinians have objected to the plan to deter any attempts to relocate Palestinian refugees in other destinations and further displace the people in known and unknown locations.

He said the objections come in light of the US-drafted “deal of the century” which negates Palestinians’ right of return to their homeland.

The PPSF leader added that displaced Palestinian and Syrian families should be allowed to return to Yarmouk at the earliest possible time, adding that 40% of homes are habitable in the camp and another 40% can be reconstructed.

Abdul Majid also said contacts have been recently made between Palestinian political factions and Syrian leaders in an attempt to hand over a memorandum to the Syrian President outlining Yarmouk’s historical and political value for the Palestinian refugee community and calling for the new reconstruction plan to be canceled.

He further stated that an urgent political solution is needed to work out the Yarmouk file and prevent further tension in the area.

Palestinian refugees and human rights groups continue to voice their firm rejection of the new reconstruction plan for Yarmouk Camp, which has been subjected to massive destruction in the bloody conflict.

Tension has been running high in the area as thousands of refugees continue to rail against the proposed plan, amid growing fears that their homes and property will be removed from the new plan.

Sometime earlier, the Damascus Governorate said parts of Yarmouk Camp are state property, which implies that the residents are not entitled to own the land but only the property built on it.

Activists said the new plan will remarkably change the demographic and architectural identity of the camp. Several buildings and facilities will be removed, which will lead to a mass displacement of refugee families and a further deterioration of their humanitarian condition.

It is believed that in case the plan is implemented, over half of the residents will not be able to return to their houses which they have abandoned in the bloody warfare.

UN data indicates that before the eruption of the conflict in 2011, Yarmouk was home to approximately 160,000 Palestine refugees, making it the largest Palestine refugee community in Syria. Located eight kilometers from Damascus, it is one of three unofficial camps in Syria.

In December 2012, fierce clashes erupted in Yarmouk, causing numerous civilian casualties, severe damage to property and the displacement of thousands of Palestine refugees and Syrians. The camp was under siege from July 2013, drastically restricting the entry of commercial and humanitarian goods.

In April 2015, armed opposition groups captured over 60 per cent of the camp, containing over 90 per cent of the remaining civilian population. This not only made relief institutions unable to carry out any distributions inside Yarmouk but also displaced most of the remaining 18,000 Palestine refugees and other civilians to the neighboring areas of Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham (YBB).

Almost all the remaining Palestine refugees left during the final government offensive for Yarmouk in April-May 2018, after which the government retook control of the camp.

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