This blog post will be updated regularly. With newest entries on top.
It will feature the public status updates provided by activists in Yarmouk, for the purpose of dismissing information from the ground in order to inform the public opinion about ISIS attempts to invade Yarmouk supported by Al Nusra Front at one hand, and the Assad regime continuous shelling on the other hand. A battle against two forces from two different directions.
The sum of inaccurate and misleading information shared about Yarmouk since early April is horrific. And the irresponsible act of spreading unverified information coming from writers, desktop journalists and others seeking scoops will have tremendous catastrophic consequences. Therefore this blog will convey information shared ONLY by activists present in the camp after their consultation and approval. Updates will stop once disclosing information becomes harmful rather than useful.
One of the main sources of information will be Abdallah Al Khateeb, a civil activist from Yarmouk. He is among a handful of activists who remained there until the first week of April, with an insight into the situation. Al Khateeb was sent death threats by ISIS upon their arrival to Yarmouk. Read Front Line Defenders Statement concerning that. In addition to be wanted by Assad regime since long time.
Everything between paratheses (..) is my additional explanation.
2ed of May 2015
Baraa is a media activist from Yarmouk. He tweets mostly in Arabic but a lot of horrific pictures come along the way. The following photo is taken central Yarmouk, opposit to Halawha Hospital and it shows the extent of destruction.
1st of May 2015
The evening was long, all Yarmouk’s residents I follow on Facebook/Twitter were posting horrific accounts of Yarmouk’s fierce bombardment in the day of workers. The updates were mostly speaking about the mass destruction taking place and speculating about the scale of infrastructure/human lost.
Abu Raed writers around midnight at Yarmouk:
(Syrian regime) helicopters are roaming in the sky of Yarmouk, they dropped four barrel bombs in different places. So far, the total mounts to 10. Simultaneously, non-stop mortars and missiles are raining the camp
While Ramez’s comment was the black humor of the night:
Dear pilot, as you are dropping barrels anyway, just bring Walid Al Muallim (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and throw it over.
He writes as well:
I wish that this insane bombardment will be the last breath of the beast. The beast that lost their mind and turned into guarding dogs at the entrance of Yarmouk
30th of April 2015
Abdallah writes from Yalda (near by Yarmouk):
Since seven years I am the groomsman of every groom in Yarmouk. I chanted in their weddings, bathing them (a Palestinian tradition), and I danced for them (Dabkeh). Nevertheless, I feel that I will be alone in my wedding and no one will be in my celebration.
Anyway, the most important is that the Palestinian Zafeh (pre-wedding celebration for the groom’s friends) is the only place when everybody agrees over one thing, the official chants.
Photo: Abdallah chanting in the wedding, the groom appears in the back.
28th of April 2015
The regime resumed the bombardment campaign. The total today is above ten barrel bombs and at least one surf-to-surf missile. One resident (Ra.Sah) writes on his facebook profile about the experience of being a potential target to one of those indiscriminate weapons, he says:
Because we adopt and not because we’re heroes, we found solutions for everything: mortars, rockets, snipers, etc. Except for barrel bombs, all our attempts to adopt are in vain. Nothing works, not sitting in the middle of the house, or even behind two walls. It won’t work to study the geographical location of your house and then choosing the best angel (to hide).
In the presence of barrel bombs, you can’t run, lie on the floor or try any other position. Shall it hits you, that’s your luck, shall it miss you, you survived.
The inventor of such a weapon is a son of a bitch and so those who use it.
26th of April 2015
The Syrian regime permanent representative to the UN claimed that “Yarmouk is empty”. Saying that only 1000 male are left inside. Majdalani, PLO envoy to Damascus, claimed as well that Yarmouk is totally empty. (He knows better than the Syrians themselves!!!). The comments of Majdalani comes following his statements saying that “A military solution for Yarmouk became the option” which came prior to his arrival to Damascus on Monday 27th of April. Therefore on 26th of April, residents of Yarmouk gather to refute the false claims. The main slogan of the demonstration was: We Are Here to Stay … At Yarmouk See Photo/Video Essay From Yarmouk Denouncing Syria UN Representative Claims: “Yarmouk is Empty”
13th of April 2015
The following voice clip is a recording of the per-bombardment seconds. At the beginning a guy laughs saying “Watch out the helicopter is there”, a second voice comments: “it is happening”. While a third voice calls for a man named Wael to come down. One of the voices urge what sounds to be a group of people to move.
The voice of the helicopter approaches and a bomb explosion is heard. The destiny of the men remains unknown.
Clip via Kotada Younes.
9th of April 2015
A heated debate sparked about to leave or not to leave Yarmouk? Abdallah writes from around Yarmouk, 16:50 Damascus time:
“The besieged people of the camp are not happy with the current situation. They remain in the camp because they have no other choice. Nobody of them is excited about the presence of ISIS in Yarmouk, simply because of the catastrophic consequences of ISIS arrival for both the camp and it’s residents.
They are choosing one death over a thousand displacement”
End of translation
7th of April 2015
S.T is an activists based in Yarmouk, she has decided not to leave and to remain with her family in her house regardless of the barrel bombs and the clashes.
She writes around 19:00 p.m, Syria time,
“by the way, the experience of displacement is very difficult. May god keep me out of such a choice”
She adds at around 21:00 p.m, Syria time,
“I am cooking rice with beans, a great stress therapy”
S.T can’t decide over her menu. beans was the only available choice in the camp today.
6th of April 2015
The following is a testimony from a guy inside Yarmouk about Assad regime’s barrel bombs. He identifies him self as Abu Raed Al-yarmouke.
Status published about midnight Syria time:
Translation starts here:
“Pilots are pimps. After dinner (which Syrians usually take at 8 or 9pm), he (the pilot) dropped two barrel bombs and then left. People thought: this is it for today, so they went to sleep.
Two hours later, the pilot came back while people were sleeping. As I was still up, I did not experience waking up to the sound (of a falling barrel bomb). I cant even imagine the feelings of those who were awoken by that.
However, what I am certain of is this: that with the fall of a barrel bomb, the angel of death, Azrael, arrives. In that moment, you only think of God.
I feel a flame burning in my head.
Damn your soul [..ya Bashar?]”
Damn your soul”
My commentary for The National Public Radio of US (NPR) about the humanitarian situation in Yarmouk with Alice Fordham, NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.
My intervention on France24, 9 a.m CET (No video available), in my capacity as head of Palestinian League for Human Rights – Syria. Here a similar version – with updates and links – on the 4 minutes talk.
I have highlighted two important facts confirmed by our sources at PLHR-Syria and those of The Palestinian Network of Civil Society Organizations in Syria (Shaml), that Yarmouk has witnessed 19 barrel bombs and 4 MiG air strike by the Syrian regime forces between 4th and 5th of April. In addition to non-stop mortar shelling by the regime as well. Not to forget the continuous clashes between ISIS and the oppositional factions. However, we need to keep in mind that at least 100 injuries were registered in the last 48 to 72 hours, and they are a direct result of the fierce shelling by the regime, rather than the on-going battle on the ground, which is a guerrilla war. The injuries remain with no proper medical care, as the minimum medical supplies dont exist in Yarmouk. The activists we have been in touch with told us that the priority for UNRWA, other UN agencies and ICRC is to secure a flow of medical materials to Yarmouk but also to Yalda, a nearby neighborhood.
In response to the question about whose responsibility the recent developments, PLHR-Syria has been following this siege since its beginning early 2013. We need to keep in mind that the regime has chosen to collectively punish civilians for a mistake they have not committed. According to our views as human rights organization, this is a war crime, 200 people died due to starvation, we have documented at least 40 name and Amnesty did an excellent job with further documentation of around 190 names. Kids, pregnant women, old people were not allowed out. The regime starved people to death. Also, we need to keep in mind that the regime cut off water from Yarmouk since November 2014. This usage of water as a tool of war was documented in our report Camps Without Water issued on the 27th of December 2014. That report covered the situation in both Yarmouk, south of Damascus, and Deraa camp, south of Syria, with testimonies from civilians in both areas.
As per the presenter question on whether the Palestinian Authority is responsible for whats going on in Yarmouk. I believe that as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, the PA and president Abbas have a very rare opportunity to intervene in a meaningful way and to alleviate the sufferings of 20.000 Palestinian civilian at Yarmouk.
5th of April 2015
The evening of the 4th of April witnessed intensified violence at Yarmouk. In addition to the ongoing battles within the camp. Assad regime used a score of barrel bombs.
Abdallah Al-Khateeb’s last update was around the midnight of 4th of April. He wrote:
“The sky of Yarmouk has barrel bombs instead of stars”
Another important update came from Farouk Al Rifai, pseudonym, who appeared in the closing coverage of last night on Al Jazzeera Arabic. Farouk is introduced as a media activist based on the surroundings of Yarmouk. The following is a transcript of his testimony, which is a description of field/humanitarian situation in the camp.
“Good evening, firstly, I want to highlight that Assad regime dropped 7 barrel bombs over Yarmouk (evening of 4th of April) and its surroundings. There is a state of panic among civilians due to this shelling.
As per fighters in all points, there is a state of anticipation following this fierce shelling. Al Aknaaf fighters are in their locations, with high spirit. The news about the fall of Yarmouk to hands of ISIS are misleading. Media coverage always do the same in each and every battle we have with ISIS or with the regime. They say that the area has fallen to the hands of ISIS, while in fact, it has not fallen. Such news cause a collapse in the morals of fighters and civilians in the same time.
The fighters of Aknaaf are now in their last square, the area of Salah Al Deen Mosque. Following a bloody day in the camp, several clashes took place over different areas of confrontation. Aknaaf fighters in coordination with other fighters who have defected from the Palestinian Liberation Army tried to conduct a counter-attack towards Loubiah Street (a commercial street in the heart of Yarmouk), They made a slight progress. However, ISIS fighters supported by Al Nusra forces (Al Qaidaa offspring in Syria) brought massive reinforcements from Al Hajjar Al Asswad (south of Yarmouk), and they stopped the attack.
Another area of intensive clashes was around Yarmouk High School for Girls (also around Loubia street – closer toward the entrance of Yarmouk, where regime forces are located). Enforcements from the side of the Syrian opposition arrived as well (4th April). Sham Al Rasoul, Ababel Houran and Islam Army came from other areas and achieved progress at Ourouba Area and Palestine Palace. They took control over the Palestinian Cultural Center and reached Magharbaa Street, amid strong resistance by Al Nusra Front and ISIS fighters. That area is under the control of ISIS/Nusra, used to block any form of support and enforcements for Al Aknaaf at Yarmouk.
Moreover, the regime took advantage of chaos inside Yarmouk, in the afternoon of 4th of April, to bomb the area four times by jetfighters, causing mass destruction. The targets were: Yarmouk main street, Palestine Palace; where opposition forces were attempting to achieve progress, in order to support the remaining fighters of Aknaaf at Yarmouk. This proofs a fact, that the regime has no interest in any win by the opposition and Al Aknaaf of territories in Yarmouk or liberating it from ISIS. It also proofs that there is a cooperation between the two parties, (ISIS and Assad), whether direct or indirect form of cooperation. This also proofs the fact that Assad regime is trying to achieve political gains over the blood of Palestinians in Yarmouk. This bring us back to the same old narrative and abuse of the Palestinian cause, Palestinian civilians, and Yarmouk Camp.
END of the transcript.
4th of April 2015
Abdallah Al Khateeb’s last update was on the 3rd of April. As can be read in the following status update, the last night featured several negotiations rounds headed by Al-Khateeb as a mediator between ISIS and Aknaaf Beit Al Maqdis.
Translation starts here: Status published on the 4th of April, around 2 p.m Damascus time.
1- “The last remaining groups of Aknaaf fighters are still fighting on the back borders of Loubiah Street (one important commercial side street of Yarmouk). The fight is against ISIS and those who allied with them.
It cant be confirmed whether the (Palestinian) factions intervened directly to support Aknaaf.
2- The medical situation is catastrophic and so the relief situation. Intensive shelling and areal bombing.
3- Intensive clashes on the sides of Yarmouk between the Syrian opposition factions and ISIS. The mission is extremely difficult as Yarmouk’s borders are full of mines, beside being covered by snipers. Al Nusra Front and ISIS have been preparing for the battle since two months, while other opposition factions were fighting on the front line (against Assad)
4- Most of the wanted activists for ISIS have been already evacuated to Yalda (a near by neighborhood) and they are fine, with continuous attempts to evacuate the rest.
5- Yesterday the last round of negotiations with ISIS was ended with failure. The topic was to evacuate the besieged fighters and civilians in the last square (he does not give a precise location for that square). The failure of the talks comes as a result for a request by Al Nusra Front for Al Aknaaf to turn in all its fighters, all its weapons, locations and that includes the hospital by the square (no more info), while six of their leadership will be allowed out. This is confirmed information as I headed the negotiations by my self and initiated the last attempt upon the approval of all parties. The response of Aknaaf was: “Let this be a life of death battle, we will not surrender”
6- Activists of southern Damascus are welcoming activists of Yarmouk at their own houses.
7- Any attempt to spread misleading information to strike any fight with the neighboring places (of Yarmouk) will serve not one but ISIS and its allies.
8- For those who wish to be helpful, spread demands and statements (PLHR for instance) in all languages, demanding UNRWA and ICRC to bring in medical and relief supplies to Yalda area to help the internally displaced and the injured.
Finally, we are neither courageous nor heroes. The heroes are the ones who remained in the last square. Yarmouk is an idea and ideas never die. Please spread.
END of the translation
3rd of April 2015
Translation starts here: Status published: 10 a.m Syria time.
“Morning from the camp. Things are totally calm. The men (he does not say who-Most probably Aknaaf Beit Al Maqdis: A Palestinian anti-regime militia) are in their locations and ready to stop any attach by any militia. Islam Army and other fighting militias (all are opposition forces against ISIS and Assad) in southern Damascus and Tadamou (nearby Yarmouk) are present on the sides of the camp. However this does not include Ahrar Al Sham (also opposition group)
Accessing Yarmouk is extremely difficult (already under regime siege) due to the shutdown of all its entrances by Al Nusra. Please DONT say that support is not coming, and STOP circulating personal conclusions. For those who think that this will be simple, you are totally mistaken.
Attacking is much harder than defending. Al Nusra Front and ISIS have been preparing for this battle since many weeks. The have mined Yarmouk’s surroundings and prepared car bombs.
This is a battle for all of southern Damascus and not only Yarmouk”
END of the translation