Fear Spreads through Palestinian Camps in Syria
by FRANKLIN LAMB
Yarmouk Palestinian camp, Damascus
Among those who have fled Syria from the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus are close to 50,000 children. This is the
figure cited by the Palestinian Popular Committees in the Damascus-Homs area as well as Anthony Lake, head of the U.N.
children’s agency UNICEF. Roughly 75% of the Palestinian youngsters fleeing the country are under the age of 11, and
they make up a significant part of the approximately one million children altogether who have been displaced by the
fighting in Syria.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees places the refugee count at more than one million. This is in addition
to the two million children who are internally displaced—forced to flee their homes in the face of a conflict which has
morphed into a vicious, sectarian civil war.
Problems for Palestinian refugees continue at the Syria-Lebanon Masnaa crossing, adding to the number of children who
are homeless and without encouraging prospects of finding either shelter or school enrollment as classes begin next
month. Approximately 8000 children, younger than fifteen, have been killed so far in the 30 month civil conflict in
According to information this observer has received from the Palestinian Popular Committees—in Yarmouk as well as the
twelve other Palestinian camps in Syria—evidence now suggests the possibility, indeed probability, of terrorist use of
chemical weapons in some of the camp areas. They have called upon Palestinian factions to take preemptive steps to
prevent further incidents.
The Popular Committee inside the “free” area of Yarmouk (pockets inside the eastern edge of the camp) issued a statement
which included the following: "In the framework of agitating the political and media war against the government of
Syria, channels of destruction and sedition have started to air misleading propaganda, claiming that the Syrian Arab
Army would fire mortars and or missiles into the camp with chemical gases, whereas these elements themselves are
planning chemical attacks to blame the government much as what happened in Irbin.”
The Committee added, "Those who invaded and destroyed the camp after having displaced its residents would not hesitate
to use the meanest ways of killing and destruction to fulfill the U.S.-Zionist goals."
The statement was drafted by advisers to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,-GC, led by Ahmed Jabril, a
staunch supporter of Syria’s President Bashar Assad. On 8/22/13, the PFLP-GC was targeted by Israel when a missile
struck just meters from the entrance to one of a series of underground tunnels in a valley in Naameh, an area 15
kilometers south of Beirut, where the group maintains a military base.
Israel said the attack was in retaliation for Thursday’s rocket attack from Lebanon into the Jewish state. The PFLP-GC
source denied the group’s involvement in that attack..
Palestinian camp officials, as well as various medical groups, are growing frustrated with a lack of activity from chief
U.N. inspector Ake Sellstrom and his delegation, who seem to linger for considerable amounts of time in the lobby of
their 5-star hotel and its swimming pool. As it happens, the hotel is situated only a few kilometers from Ghouta, the
green belt which surrounds Damascus, as well as the Yarmouk camp and the nearby attack area.
“What are they waiting for?”—is a commonly expressed sentiment heard this morning in Irbid, site of the alleged chemical
“They can give me their equipment and I will gather evidence for them if they are too busy,” commented one Palestinian
youngster to this observer.
Residents in the Damascus suburbs, and also at Yarmouk, at least seem relieved that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov has just urged the Syrian government to allow in the UN inspectors without delay to thoroughly investigate this
crime against humanity.
Palestinian sentiments expressed to this observer by refugees in Damascus and Homs seem largely in keeping with what the
Syrian government has been saying—namely that Western accusations of government involvement are probably false—and like
many others they point to the illogical timing of the attack, just days after the arrival of the inspectors. A change
from this initial tentative conclusion is not impossible, however.
Near Irbid one now hears estimates of more than 1,500 killed, with more victims being discovered still, while figures
cited by the Unified Medical Bureau for Eastern Gouta are even higher. One Palestinian member of Yarmouk’s Popular
Committee, whose family village is near Safad, pointed to the location of the attacks—Irbin, Jobar, Zamalka and Ain
Tarma, rebel strongholds in the portion of the Ghouta east of Damascus, as well as the town of Muadhamiya which is maybe
five miles south.
One reason the casualty figures are so high, people from the gassed areas explain, is due to lack of air conditioning.
Most residents in this area sleep with their windows opened; victims died in their beds during the early morning attack.
As of morning on 8/23/13, many of the remaining Palestinians in Yarmouk are seeking somewhere to flee to, visibly afraid
that chemical weapons will be used in Yarmouk in the coming days.