US News In Syria, the dream of returning to the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk

15:05  28 november  2020
15:05  28 november  2020 Source:   lepoint.fr

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Yarmouk Camp is a 2.11-square-kilometer (520-acre) district of the city of Damascus, populated by Palestinians , with hospitals and schools. It is located 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) from the center of Damascus and within municipal boundaries (but not initially when established in 1957).

Palestinians have started to return to their homes in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria after clashes between the army and the rebels in the area subsided. According to the UN Relief and Works Agency, many of the roughly 150,000 Palestinian refugees fled Yarmouk in the last week.

Le Palestinien Issa al-Loubani et sa famille dans le camp de Yarmouk (Syrie) le 25 novembre 2020 © LOUAI BESHARA The Palestinian Issa al-Loubani and his family in the Yarmouk camp (Syria) on November 25, 2020

When the Syrian authorities authorized the inhabitants of Yarmouk to return home, the Palestinian refugee Issa al-Loubani hastened to register his family and begin himself the repairs of his apartment, impatient to find this camp devastated by the war.

L'appartement d'Issa al-Loubani a besoin de beaucoup de travaux, à Yarmouk (Syrie) le 25 novembre 2020 © LOUAI BESHARA Issa al-Loubani's apartment needs a lot of work, in Yarmouk (Syria) on November 25, 2020

Equipped with their precious property titles, hundreds of people have already registered to be able to return in this camp which accommodated before the start of the war in 2011 about 160,000 Palestinian refugees as well as Syrian families.

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Many of Yarmouk 's residents fled after the group ISIS invaded last Wednesday and overran the camp . Yarmouk was established in 1957 to accommodate the huge influx of Palestinian refugees from Israel. It became home to the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria .

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Selon l'ONU, 430 familles sont retournées s'installer dans le camp de Yarmouk (Syrie) © LOUAI BESHARA According to the UN, 430 families have returned to settle in the Yarmouk camp (Syria)

"Our house needs major work but it is better than paying rent", confides Mr. Loubani , who regularly visited his home from nearby Damascus with his wife Ilham and their daughter.

The family has already installed a rug, kitchen utensils and a mattress. But the 48-year-old Palestinian knows he will have to spend the winter in an apartment with gaping windows covered with plastic sheeting.

This neighborhood in the suburbs of Damascus was torn away in 2018 by government forces from the jihadists of the Islamic State group, but reconstruction is stalling.

"We still have to restore electricity and running water, clear the rubble from the streets," he admits.

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Some Palestinian factions in Syria 's Yarmouk refugee camp agree to Syrian government action to combat IS militants, Palestinian officials say. "The operation will be conducted in co-operation between the Palestinian groups in Syria and the Syrian government through a joint operation centre

And Yarmouk looks like an earthquake zone. Buildings are now shells of gaping holes with jagged slabs of concrete and plaster hanging from the floors. The deal means Syrian rebel groups will leave this camp , to be replaced by Palestinian factions allied to the Syrian government. But with details of

The floor of his deserted street is strewn with rubble: a damaged washing machine, blocks of stone, planks, old rags, scattered clothes.

And just in front of their building, Issa and Ilham find among other things of theirs a photo of their wedding. "Here is Oum Walid", exclaims the mother of the family, indicating a guest.

Partially or totally collapsed buildings line up along several alleys, reminiscent of years of fierce fighting.

Les habitants du camp de Yarmouk (Syrie) autorisés à retourner chez eux © LOUAI BESHARA Residents of Yarmouk camp (Syria) allowed to return home

- Returns by the hundreds -

The municipality of Damascus announced in November that the inhabitants could return to Yarmouk, provided that their home is not unhealthy.

Installed on the ground floor of a ruined building, officials welcome dozens of people every day who want to obtain the necessary authorizations.

Some 600 families have already registered, assures AFP Mahmoud al-Khaled, head of the committee responsible for clearing the camp.

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Palestinian refugee camps are camps set up by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria , the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to accommodate Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA

The Palestinian community of Burj Al Barajneh rallied on the 10th January to end to siege of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus in Syria .

About 40% of buildings could be reoccupied almost immediately while 40% require rehabilitation, he says.

Established in the 1950s, Yarmouk was initially a refugee camp created for Palestinians driven from their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Over the decades, it became a real residential and commercial district, but fell under the influence rebels in 2012, falling three years later into the hands of the jihadists.

Syria at war has experienced a sharp deterioration in the socioeconomic situation over the past year, marked by a plunge in the national currency and runaway inflation.

The UN reported at the beginning of November the return in recent months to Yarmouk of 430 families who "no longer have the means to rent".

The overwhelming majority of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) infrastructure in the camp, including sixteen schools, needs to be completely rebuilt. The three medical centers were also destroyed.

A mobile clinic comes once a week, according to UNRWA. The organization's buses transport the children to schools in Damascus.

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- Débrouille -

Despite these conditions, Chehab al-Din Blidi relocated to Yarmouk for a month, his accommodation having been generally spared by the fighting.

In his living room with its bright paint and padded armchairs, you could almost forget the destruction outside.

"If we had waited for the return of electricity, water, mains drainage, we would have stayed maybe a year to pay rent" elsewhere, explains the sixty-year-old Syrian.

To obtain a few hours of electricity, he connected to the network outside the camp with a long electric cable.

"The destruction is too important to be supported by a single institution", he admits. "Reconstruction requires the efforts of several countries. In the meantime, we must make do."

In a country fragmented by war, where divisions remain deep, the return is sometimes an unattainable dream.

This is the case for Ahmed Khormandi, who left Yarmouk in 2015. After years of exile, the 40-year-old has failed in rebel territory, in a camp for displaced people.

"No one here can register to return," he told AFP, saying he feared arrests.

"Even if I came home, I would not be able to afford to repair it," he adds, saying that he heard that his house had been looted and set on fire.

mam / rh / tgg / bek / elm

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This is interesting!