Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lecture by Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA on Yarmouk Camp

I don't trust Unrwa and I think it is a mere tool of the Zionist US Congress (see the comments at the end about John Kerry) but some interesting bits about Yarmouk:
"The turning point was in December 2012, when Yarmouk - a Damascus suburb hosting one of the largest Palestinian communities in exile - was overwhelmed by fighting. It suddenly seemed that the deliberate wish of the vast majority of Palestinians to stay out of the conflict was simply not enough to protect them - and this was made worse by the military involvement of some Palestinians - though a small minority - on both sides of the conflict. Many of the twelve Palestinian camps, because they are mostly located in contested areas, are now overwhelmed by fighting and insecurity. In some cases, Palestinians (and indeed other civilians) have left en masse, either fleeing from fighting or forced away at gunpoint...Its relative isolation from the conflict was shattered in mid-December 2012. This is when armed groups came into the camp, the government surrounded the area, and clashes ensued. UNRWA’s 28 schools and three clinics ceased operation. Armed groups also occupied houses, looted hospitals and stores. Those inside Yarmouk and who did not manage or did not want to flee, got caught in a tight stranglehold by the parties to the conflict. And this is a pattern that repeated itself in other Palestinian camps, including Qabr Essit, Ein El-Tal and Sbeineh...Residents whom I saw yesterday emerging like ghosts from the depths of Yarmouk, as in a medieval siege, reported that they subsisted on grass, spices mixed in water, and animal feed. They burned furniture on their balconies to keep warm; they suffered severe malnutrition and dehydration. Many died from readily treatable conditions...Jordan has an explicit no-entry policy for Palestinians from Syria. Approximately 11,000 have sought assistance from UNRWA there. Throughout the region, in support of Palestinians fleeing Syria, we promote humanitarian principles of non-refoulement and equal treatment of refugees, but to little avail in the case of Jordan. Palestinians are also no longer granted visas to Egypt. Some 5,000 fled the Syria conflict there and are in need of assistance. Making it possible has been a complex exercise in a country undergoing its own, difficult transition...We estimate that at least 70% of the Palestine refugee population in Syria have been displaced, whether inside the country or beyond its borders. It is in fact the largest displacement of Palestinians since 1967, although - one should say - displacement and insecurity have been main characteristics of the Palestinian condition: including the expulsions from Kuwait and Libya, the destruction of camps in the Lebanese civil war and more recently of Nahr el-Bared, and the grave violations of human rights against Palestinians that occurred a few years ago in Iraq.
And look carefully at pictures of Yarmouk - of the distribution of small parcels of food to thousands of desperate women, men, children coming out of the besieged area. The stark greyness of the people and the rubble remind me of the black-and-white archive pictures from the Palestinian diaspora in 1948: children in tattered clothes and unkempt hair warming themselves on small fires, old people looking into the camera, their lined and leathered faces deep with concern." (thanks Laure)