Syria crisis situation update (Issue 38)

16 March 2013
16 March 2013
Damascus, Syria
 
Regional Overview
 
The unrelenting conflict in Syria continues to exact a heavy toll on civilians – Palestine refugees and Syrians alike. Armed clashes continue throughout Syria, particularly in Rif Damascus Governorate, Aleppo, Dera’a and Homs. With external flight options restricted, Palestine refugees in Syria remain a particularly vulnerable group who are increasingly unable to cope with the socio-economic and security challenges in Syria. As the armed conflict has progressively escalated since the launch of UNRWA’s Syria Crisis Response 2013, the number of Palestine refugees in Syria in need of humanitarian assistance has risen to over 400,000 individuals. The number of Palestine refugees from Syria who have fled to Jordan has reached 4,695 individuals and approximately 32,000 refugees are in Lebanon.
 
Syria
  • Hostilities around Damascus claimed the lives of at least 25 Palestine refugees during the reporting period, including an UNRWA teacher from Khan Esheih camp. UNRWA is gravely concerned by what appears to be a trend of increasing Palestine refugee deaths and injuries in the Syria conflict. (link to the statement)
  • Conflict continues throughout most of the country, including around eastern and southern Damascus/Rif Damascus Governorate, with clashes and shelling spilling into several camps, namely Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Seyeda Zaynab and Husseiniyah.
  • Clashes and shelling around Khan Esheih camp increased significantly, extending into the camp on several occasions with reports that some refugees have started to flee the camp.
  • Homs has seen renewed hostilities, especially around Bab Amr, raising concerns over the adjacent camp, which remains relatively calm.
  • Intensive fighting also continues around Aleppo airport, next to Neirab camp.
  • Further to the south, hostilities intensified around Dera‘a, reportedly preventing access to the border with Jordan.
Despite the high risk of exposure to violence and restricted humanitarian access, since the start of the conflict in March 2011, UNRWA’s network of staff and humanitarian assets have succeeded in providing 28,652 refugee households with food parcels, 14,956 mattresses, 29,782 blankets, and 2,997 hygiene kits. Cash assistance has been provided to approximately 70,000 families.
Currently, there are some 13,000 IDPs sheltering in UNRWA-managed facilities in Syria, of which nearly 8,000 are in UNRWA buildings (e.g. schools and training centres) that are being used as make-shift emergency shelters. The IDPs are dependent on humanitarian assistance for their basic food, NFI and health needs.
 
 
IDP numbers in UNRWA facilities as of 12 March**:
 
 

IDPs in four UNRWA facilities as of 12 March**:

Area

Women

Men

Children

Total

Damascus Training Centre

250

296

932

1478

Damascus (Jaramana Camp)

244

285

412

941

Damascus (Mezzeh)

102

140

327

569

Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)

328

279

563

1170

Damascus (Ramadan Camp)

354

306

611

1271

Damascus (Dummar)

120

124

251

495

Damascus (Rukn Eddin)

140

122

250

512

Damascus (Khan Dannoun Camp)

155

195

418

768

Aleppo

199

227

-

426

Hama

-

-

-

10

Total

1

1,974

3,764

7,640

 
** Over the past weeks, UNRWA has been striving to locate displaced Palestine refugees. These efforts have been successful in locating 5,374 Palestine refugees in non-UNRWA facilities. (Total number of IDPs in UNRWA-run facilities: 13,014).
 
Damascus / Rif Damascus:
The situation remains unpredictable in Damascus/Rif Damascus Governorate. This week, an UNRWA teacher from Khan Esheih camp, Nasri Hassan was killed due to injuries sustained from shelling. Nasri Hassan is the sixth UNRWA staff member to be killed in the Syria conflict. In the afternoon of Wednesday 13 March 2013, during a period of intense armed engagements, Mr. Hasan’s home on East Street in Khan Esheih camp was reportedly struck and damaged by an artillery shell.  As Mr. Hasan, his wife and four teenage children were fleeing on foot to the relative safety of a makeshift shelter, he was seriously wounded by shrapnel from a nearby explosion. The only hospital in Khan Eshieh camp was not functional, so Mr. Hasan was rushed to Kamal Hospital in Jdaydeh, some nine kilometres from Khan Eshieh camp. He died of his wounds on 14 March 2013. UNRWA has received reports of at least 25 Palestine refugees killed in the area this week.
 
The situation continues to deteriorate in Khan Esheih camp and there are reports that refugees have started to flee the area. The majority of residents from Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Seyeda Zaynab and Hussieniyeh have not returned to the camps due to high risk of exposure to violence and conflict-related restrictions on movement. UNRWA is gravely concerned over reports that armed groups in Seyeda Zaynab camp are targeting refugees who are trying to flee the camp.
 
Aleppo:UNRWA has received reports of armed groups restricting access to Neirab camp. The situation is dire in the camp with refugees pleading for assistance. Armed conflict in the area of the adjacent airport has contributed to the tense situation in the Aleppo area. UNRWA facilities remain operational. 
 
Dera’a:
Clashes resumed in the southern part of town, Dera’a al Balad, followed by security operations (including movement restrictions) in various parts of the town. Shells impacted within Mzerieb, allegedly in response to armed opposition elements operating from within the village, resulting in injuries to two Syrian villagers. The security situation close to the border with Jordan has deteriorated. Shelling intensified around the village of Tel Shihab, preventing access to the village. In Kherbet Ghazalah, an improvised explosive device detonated right after a convoy of four WFP armoured vehicles had passed on its way to the Jordanian border (approximately 20 km from the border). There was minor damage caused to an armoured vehicle and the mission was abandoned. UNRWA facilities were temporarily closed in the Dera’a area due to high risk of exposure to violence.
 
Homs:
The situation in Homs severely deteriorated this week with intermittent shelling of the city centre and intensive clashes in Bab Amr, Karm Shami and Jouret Arayes. There are reports of armed groups in the camp and the situation remains tense. Three Palestine refugee women (residents of the camp) reportedly went missing while visiting relatives and friends in other parts of the city. UNRWA facilities are operational, however, schools were closed as a precautionary measure.
 
Hama:
Despite clashes in the vicinity of the camp, the town and camp remain relatively calm and UNRWA facilities are operational.
 
Lattakia: 
There has been no change in the situation in Lattakia. Main roads from Damascus to Lattakia and Homs remain accessible. UNRWA facilities are operational.
 

Lebanon

 
There are currently approximately 32,000 Palestine refugees who have crossed into Lebanon since the start of the conflict. In Lebanon, Palestine refugees from Syria are dispersed in Saida, northern Lebanon, Beqa’a, central Lebanon Area and Tyre. Emergency shelter remains the most pressing need of Palestine refugees in Lebanon where the majority of them are sheltering in overcrowded camps. Particular attention has been paid to the continuation of children’s education despite their displacement from Syria to Lebanon. Currently, there are approximately 3,000 Palestine refugees students from Syria who are continuing their education in UNRWA schools, both in regular and special classes. UNRWA has provided cash assistance, clothing and food vouchers to vulnerable Palestine refugee families from Syria, many of whom are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance and the host community to survive.
 

JORDAN

On 11 March 2013, in a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, Filippo Grandi UNRWA Commissioner General noted that, unlike Syrian nationals, Palestinians had  “limited flight options” as neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, had capped their admittance numbers to the Palestinian refugee population. Additional high-level attention to the situation of Palestine refugees seeking refuge in Jordan came from the UNHCR High Commissioner Antonio Guterres who, at a press conference in Amman on 13 March, made a public plea to governments of countries surrounding Syria to keep their borders open to Palestinian refugees from Syria. 

 The number of Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) registered with UNRWA in Jordan has increased to 4,695. Of those, 218 reside in Cyber City, the government appointed facility in Irbid Governorate.

 In the last week, health services were provided to 160 PRS through UNRWA Health Centers. 

 Last week, UNRWA provided cash for food assistance, to 561 individuals (138 families).
 

Seven children at risk of refoulement

 
 
 
At 9:15 on a Wednesday in February, an NGO staff member in Za’atari camp received a phone call from a colleague seeking assistance to stop the refoulement of seven unaccompanied children. The previous evening, the children had been separated from their mother/aunt while attempting unauthorized leave from the camp. The mother, her biological children, nieces and nephews departed the camp in two vehicles. The mother’s car passed through the camp security checkpoint with no problem. However, the car with the children was stopped. The children were taken from the car and transported to the Mafraq Police Station for deportation to Syria. When the NGO employee called the Mafraq police station to stop the deportation, the police justified their action claiming the children were Palestinian. When it was verified that the children were all Syrians they were returned Za’atari and staff assisted them until their mother/aunt rejoined them later that day. The children’s ages ranged from 3 to 17.
 

 *Note that non-material facts have been changed slightly to protect the identity of the family.

 

Funding requirements

 
2013 Regional Response Plan (January 2013 to June 2013):
  • The total pledged amount against the 2013 response plan is now at USD 31.6 million, equivalent to 34.6% of the total budget of the 2013 Response Plan required (USD 91.24 million). A new contribution of USD 5 million has been received this week from Japan.
  • Out of the USD 31.6 million pledged funds, USD 23.8 million were received so far.
  • Another USD 20.75 million are under discussion with several donors

2012 Regional Response Plan ( to 31 December 2012):
  • Out of the USD 28.9m pledged funds USD 1.94 million remain outstanding (= outstanding installments of 2012 pledges).

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