Palestinian refugees being killed, displaced amid Syrian regime's Daraa assault: UNRWA

Palestinian refugees being killed, displaced amid Syrian regime's Daraa assault: UNRWA
UNRWA warned that the bombardment of Syria's rebel-held Daraa Al-Balad and its vicinities 'has dramatically reduced' its capacity to offer 'critical services to a very vulnerable community'.
3 min read
17 August, 2021
UNRWA is the UN's Palestinian refugee agency and helps millions of people [Getty-file photo]

The plight of Palestinian refugees in Syria's Daraa province is getting worse, the United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said on Sunday, amid Assad regime bombardment and fighting against rebels.

"Hundreds of vulnerable families" in the province, among them Palestinian refugees, are suffering from injuries, deaths, and displacement, UNRWA said.

"The latest hostilities and shelling in and around [Daraa] have dramatically reduced the ability of UNRWA to continue providing critical services to a very vulnerable community," the organisation warned.

The UNRWA is "extremely concerned for the lives and wellbeing of some 30,000 Palestin[ian] refugees registered with the Agency in south Syria".

It added that about 10,000 of these formerly lived in the Daraa's Palestinian refugee camp prior to the Syrian war, which began in 2011.

The war has caused serious damage to the camp, though around 3,000 Palestinians had been living there this year – having come back largely due to no other options.

However, over 50 percent of residents have left the camp since late June, when the regime implemented a siege on the Daraa Al-Balad neighbourhood for dismissing the country's sham presidential vote that returned dictator Bashar Al-Assad to power.

The situation is "dire" for those still living in the camp, UNRWA said.

Water and electricity supplies inside the camp have been completely cut off, and food and medicine supplies depleted after the nearby Saraya crossing point was shut to all traffic on 30 July.

The agency urged that Saraya, the chief crossing point for aid, be reopened.

Palestinian families are struggling to access UNRWA assistance in the west of Daraa, particularly after the body's medical facility at Muzayrib was shut on 1 August.

UNRWA said: "Humanitarian needs are immense, including the demand for food and non-food items, and people living near the clashes face increased risks related to contamination by explosive remnants of war."

It added that those forced out of homes are often now living with other family members, creating a greater likelihood of coronavirus transmission and exacerbating financial hardship.

It has become exceedingly difficult to leave the Daraa refugee camp and it has become a struggle to make use of the assistance provided both in the city of Daraa and the camp.

Arrangements for getting Palestinian schoolchildren back into education with UNRWA have been pushed back.

UNRWA urged "[p]arties to the conflict [to] ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance into the [Daraa] area, including access to UNRWA services".

It said the Syrian war has pushed the majority of Palestinian refugees out of their homes more than once.

It also called on those involved in fighting to "protect civilians and safeguard civilian infrastructure, including UNRWA installations" in the province.

The UN agency helps 5.7 million people, both inside and outside Palestine, who became or were born as refugees, including with the ethnic cleansing of the Israeli state's 1948 creation, known as the Nakba, or "catastrophe".

In addition to Syria, UNRWA works in Jordan and Lebanon.