Syria crisis situation update (Issue 45)

06 May 2013
04 May 2013
Damascus, Syria
As a direct result of increasing armed conflict affecting refugee camps, there are now approximately 235,000 internally displace Palestine refugees in Syria. The number of refugees having fled Syria to neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan also continues to rise. The number of Palestine refugees from Syria entering Lebanon and Jordan is now over 50,000 and 6,000 respectively. Over 400,000 refugees in Syria now require humanitarian assistance, with the number set to rise further in 2013. UNRWA has distributed food and non-food items to at least 165,000 refugees and cash assistance has reached approximately 220,000 refugees. Just under 8,000 refugees are currently being provided shelter in UNRWA facilities, and many more are being provided accommodation in refugee camp communities.
  • Some 6,000 refugees were displaced from Ein el Tal camp after armed opposition groups entered the camp and fighting broke out.  The refugees have fled to Aleppo city and its rural areas, Lattakia, Hama and Homs, and more than 3,000 have already been provided emergency cash assistance. Food parcels will also be provided, and many are sheltering in UNRWA facilities.
  • Heightened levels of conflict were reported in many parts of the country this week, and at least seven refugees were killed in armed clashes and shelling. A number of IEDs and VBIEDs have exploded in Damascus, including several close to the UNRWA Field Office.
  • The Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, visited one of the Agency’s collective shelters in Jaramana Camp, Damascus, which currently provides shelter to 725 displaced Palestine refugees and Syrian citizens. Refugees shared their concerns and UNRWA staff had the opportunity to assess the growing needs of the displaced refugee population. Approximately 235,000 Palestine refugees are estimated to be displaced inside Syria.
  • In the past two weeks UNRWA has distributed 21,288 blankets, 4,526 family food parcels and 11,439 mattresses to displaced refugees in Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Dera’a and Latakia. A total of 22,721 beneficiaries received assistance. 165,721 refugees have now received food and non-food items, and a further 73,076 families have received cash assistance.
  • Two staff members were released from detention this week in Damascus, and Homs. UNRWA staff face increasing challenges as they continue to strive to maintain regular service provision, and there are currently 11 staff missing, many presumed detained, and six staff have died in the Syria conflict.
Palestine refugees in Syria are being killed, injured and displaced in greater numbers than ever before, as the armed conflict continues to overwhelm refugee camps across the country. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) now estimates that approximately 235,000 Palestine refugees have been displaced inside Syria and is particularly concerned about news that was confirmed today on the displacement of some 6,000 Palestinians from Ein El Tal on 26 April, a Palestine refugee camp some 12 kilometres from Aleppo.
Months of sporadic armed engagements intensified last week, culminating in armed opposition groups occupying Ein El Tal camp in the early morning hours of 26 April and immediately declaring it a “military zone”. Exchanges of fire ensued with forces loyal to the government who were present inside the camp. Mortars and small arms were reportedly used, damaging and destroying refugee homes and contributing to dozens of fatalities and injuries, including among Palestinian civilians. In the aftermath of the fighting, a number of young Palestine refugee men were reportedly taken away by the armed opposition groups who now remain in Ein El Tal camp, where a situation of high tension prevails.
Staff from UNRWA’s Office in Aleppo responded within a few hours to the emergency needs of the refugees displaced from Ein El Tal camp, and emergency cash assistance has already been provided to over 3,000 refugees from the camp. Rapid arrangements were also put into place to provide food to the displaced, many of whom are still seeking temporary accommodation in Aleppo city. UNRWA’s response efforts are continuing amidst reports that significant numbers of the displaced refugees may be trapped without adequate shelter in rural areas around Aleppo where intense armed conflict continues to rage. 
Events in Ein El Tal mirror the tragic experience of other Palestine refugee camps – Dera’a Camp, Yarmouk in Damascus City and Husseiniyeh, Khan Eshieh, Sbeineh, and Seida Zaynab Camps in the wider Damascus area. Ein El Tal is the latest manifestation of a cycle of catastrophic violence in which the conduct of all parties has transformed Palestine refugee camps into theatres of conflict in which heavy weapons are used, resulting in severe suffering for Palestinian civilians.

IDP numbers in UNRWA facilities as of 30 April:
Damascus Training Centre
Damascus (Jaramana Camp)
Damascus (Mezzeh)
Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)
Damascus (Ramadan Camp)
Damascus (Dummar)
Damascus (Rukn Eddin)
Damascus (Khan Dannoun Camp)
Damascus / Rif Damascus: Accompanied by a number of UNRWA staff, the Director of UNRWA Affairs, Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, this week visited the al Kabri collective shelter in Jaramana Camp, home to 725 internally-displaced persons. The visit provided an opportunity to witness first-hand the conditions of IDPs and to listen to their concerns and requests in order to meet their growing needs and improve services provided to them. Each collective shelter has a medical focal point and social worker on call 24 hours a day.


Hostilities continue in several areas of Damascus, at somewhat increased levels than last week, and there have been a number of explosions from IEDs reported in central areas of the city, including close to the Field Office on the Mezzeh Autostrade. Camps in Yarmouk, Husseiniyeh, Khan Eshieh and Seida Zeinab all continue to witness clashes and shelling in the immediate vicinity, with hostilities occasionally spilling over into the camps themselves. At least five refugees were killed as a result this week. UNRWA estimates that there are approximately 187,000 Palestine refugees displaced in the Damascus area.
Aleppo: Following several days of clashes immediately around Ein el Tal Camp, clashes broke out inside the camp, with armed opposition groups declaring it a ‘military zone’. Most of the over 6,000 camp residents have fled to Aleppo, Lattakia, Hama and Homs. A group of refugees who fled to Aleppo forced their way into the Area Office, injuring a member of staff and damaging furniture. The office was closed early as a precaution, but refugees have stayed in the vicinity since. The office continues to open late and close early as a precautionary measure.
While there continue to be reports of clashes around the nearby airport, Neirab camp itself remains relatively calm. The camp is still effectively cut off from Aleppo by armed opposition groups but this week a number of displaced refugees in Aleppo were able to return to their homes in Neirab.
Dera’a: Intensive shelling was reported in the south of the town, around the camp, and some sniper activity has been reported in the town, limiting movement, but the camp itself remained calm. Security operations resulted in the early closure of the Area Office. Mzerieb has been relatively calm and all facilities were operational. Jillien also remains calm, but is inaccessible from Dera’a.
Homs: Sporadic shelling was heard from the town centre last weekend, and clashes took place along the road to Tartous, temporarily closing the highway. The camp itself remained calm and all facilities were operational. Contact has been made with an UNRWA driver who was detained whilst delivering aid to Hama several weeks ago. Security forces have said they will release him and the vehicle soon.
Hama: Intensive shelling was reported around the road to Aleppo early in the week, in the vicinity of the camp, and there have been occasional closures of facilities as a precautionary measure. Clashes have also been reported in the vicinity of the camp, and a number of shells impacted within the camp causing some minor injuries. A small number of refugees have begun to arrive from Ein el Tal camp.
Lattakia: The situation remains calm and UNRWA continues to deliver services. The camp has received a number of refugees fleeing from Ein el Tal, and they are being accommodated in three schools, as well as a kindergarten inside the camp.
Palestine Refugees from Syria in Lebanon
There are currently approximately 50,000 Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) in Lebanon. 31% are located in Saida, with the rest spread throughout Beqaa, Tyre, Beirut and Northern Lebanon. Approximately 500 refugees crossed the border into Lebanon yesterday, with similar increases in the number of Syrians, possibly due to the long weekend this week.
Palestinian Refugees from Syria in Jordan
As of 1 May 2013, UNRWA has recorded 1,541 Palestinian families of concern to the Agency. Currently, 198 Palestinians reside in Cyber City, the government appointed facility in Irbid governorate. 
From 1 January to 29 April 2013, PRS have made 2,789 primary health care visits to UNRWA clinics across the Kingdom, 227 of which were in the last week. On average, 3.5 percent of UNRWA’s Jordan population make health visits in the course of a month, whereas the number for PRS is a staggering 15% a month. This number is symptomatic of the physical and psychological vulnerability of this group.  
638 students are attending UNRWA schools.
Relief and Social Services
To date UNRWA has distributed emergency assistance to 997 families totaling $427,168.
UNRWA is gravely concerned by reports it is receiving about PRS families stranded on the Syrian side of the border, unable to enter Jordan and, due to the surrounding conflict, not able to return to their homes.
2013 Response Plan (January 2013 – June 2013):
•   The total pledged amount against the 2013 Response Plan now stands at US$ 58.79 million, equivalent to 64.4% of the total budget of the 2013 Response Plan required (US$ 91.24 million). 
•    Another US$ 10.87 million are currently under discussion with several donors.
2012 Response Plan up to 31 December 2012:
•   No changes from last week‘s update. Out of the US$ 28.9m pledged funds US$ 1.9 million remain outstanding (= outstanding installments of 2012 pledges).