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Yarmouk-based NGO chronicles week of ISIS attacks on the Palestinian refugee camp in Syria

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Editor’s Note: The Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief operates on the ground in Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, which is the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria. Information in the below timeline was collected by Jafra, from people with the organization who witnessed first-person the on-going events inside of Yarmouk and have not been independently confirmed.

9 AM, April 1, 2015

Armed groups belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched an attack on Yarmouk Camp, entering the camp from the southern neighborhood of Hajar Al Aswad. In coordination with Jabat al-Nusra (Nusra), ISIS captured large portions of southern neighborhoods in Yarmouk Camp by around 2PM. They were able to control the camp by positioning snipers in the tallest buildings inside the southern portion of the camp.

Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis, the largest organized armed Palestinian militia inside the camp, was surprised by their entrance and once informed, immediately began resisting the entrance of ISIS.

Many civilians volunteered to join the fight to defend the camp from ISIS’s entrance. By 6PM on April 1st, Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis took back more than 70% of the areas captured by ISIS earlier in the day. At the end of April 1st, ISIS controlled Palestine Hospital, kidnapping 5 volunteers who had been injured. The whereabouts of these 5 volunteers are still unknown. Since then the hospital has been closed. Clashes continued until 2AM.

Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis, along with those who had volunteered that day (in total about 500 fighters), waited for reinforcements to arrive from other armed opposition groups. These fighters came from Babilla and Beit Sahem. They attempted entrance into Yarmouk after 6PM on April 1st from Palestine Square in the east of the camp but were prevented by Nusra, who had placed heavy weaponry in the square to halt their entrance. It was at this time that Nusra entered the clashes. It was then realized that Nusra had allowed ISIS into the camp, giving them access via streets they had been controlling previously. The two have now joined forces against Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis and other volunteer Palestinian fighters.

Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis and other volunteer Palestinian fighters continued to fight throughout the night, killing and injuring tens of ISIS fighters.

April 2, 2015

Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis, with support from Palestinian civilians who volunteered to fight ISIS, continued to retake control of about 80% of the areas captured by ISIS the previous day. ISIS again began to enter the camp, this time from the east. Again in coordination with Nusra they were able to control more than 60% of the camp. Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis then gathered all their fighters in the northeast of the camp to defend their positions there.

Shelling from inside of Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, April 2015. (Photo: Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief)

Shelling from inside of Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, April 2015. (Photo: Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief)

At this time ISIS began to enter the offices of all local organizations in Yarmouk. They entered the Jafra office/center in the middle of Yarmouk, located on Al Madares Street, breaking into the office by destroying an office wall. Three Jafra volunteers were in the office at this time; they were held for 2 hours and released. ISIS destroyed the office and all paperwork inside.

April 3, 2015

Since then heavy clashes have continued. ISIS beheaded two young Palestinian fighters. At least two civilians were killed by shelling, and many lie dead in the street unable to be reached due to increased sniping in the area. Two young women were kidnapped by ISIS from Al Madares Street, their whereabouts are currently unknown. Jamal Khalefe was a 27 year old media activist killed during heavy shelling. ISIS arrested at least 50 Palestinian civilians from Al Arouba neighborhood and arrested an unknown number of Palestinian civilians from Al Madares Street, among them many women and elderly. ISIS executed 7 Palestinian youth near Hamdan Bakery in the middle of Yarmouk Street.

Shelling from inside of Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, April 2015. (Photo: Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief)

Shelling from inside of Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, April 2015. (Photo: Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief)

There are no definitive numbers reported for those injured or deceased but as of now 15 people have been confirmed as deceased and around 60 people have been reported in critical condition.

The assumption is that many more are injured and in critical condition. Basel Hospital and Palestine Hospital are unable to provide any services as both hospitals are completely without medical supplies and are currently being occupied by ISIS. There are now no operational hospitals or medical facilities to serve the civilian population inside the besieged camp.

As of noon on April 3rd ISIS and Nusra controlled most of the areas retaken yesterday by Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis. Other armed opposition groups continued fighting in the south and east of Yarmouk camp in attempts to support Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis but are unable to reach Yarmouk because of ongoing clashes with ISIS and Nusra.

The regime continues random heavy shelling and rocket fire in many areas inside Yarmouk Camp as they are aware that ISIS is attempting to control the entirety of besieged southern Damascus.

Jamal Khalifeh, killed by shelling inside of Yarmouk refugee camp. (Photo: Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief)

Jamal Khalifeh, killed by shelling inside of Yarmouk refugee camp. (Photo: Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief)

Humanitarian Situation

The besieged civilians inside Yarmouk have already endured almost two years without water, food, and medical supplies. As both hospitals are now closed, civilians are calling for the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent (ICRC) and other international organizations to assist in the entrance of medical supplies in order to care for wounded persons. Many injured civilians are in need of immediate evacuation for treatment.

Shelling from inside of Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, April 2015. (Photo: Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief)

Shelling from inside of Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, April 2015. (Photo: Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief)

Civilians in besieged Yarmouk have depended completely on water trucking services provided by local NGOs. They have been unable to access water for the last 3 days. Food distribution that was scheduled to take place on April 1st was canceled completely. There are no safe routes for the entrance of food into the camp. All markets are closed. Since ISIS entered the camp, all civilians inside the camp have been unable to access any basic human needs materials. Many remain in their homes as leaving will place them at risk of being kidnapped, arrested, or killed.

All schools inside Yarmouk have closed.

Status of Jafra Work and Volunteers

As of now there is one confirmed death amongst Jafra volunteers. Majed Al Omari was the coordinator of Team Services for Jafra inside Yarmouk. He was killed April 3rd by ISIS forces, shot by sniper fire in the street near his home.

Jafra Foundation has suspended all work inside Yarmouk camp and has asked other local organizations to do the same. Nusra has shared lists of civilian activists working in media, relief and other sectors with ISIS. There is information that Nusra has kidnapped volunteers from other organizations inside the camp.

Jafra implemented its security plan to gather small groups of volunteers together in safe places.

At present all other Jafra volunteers are safe. Jafra continues to work on ensuring the safety of its volunteers.

April 4, 2015

This morning hundreds of IDPs from besieged Yarmouk have faced serious risks to move to safer locations in Damascus and Yelda. The Jafra team is preparing an IDP shelter in Damascus and is also planning to send food baskets, hygiene kits and medical aid to Yelda and Beit Sahem.

Clashes and random heavy shelling have intensified this morning. The Jafra team has worked to enter food baskets and medical aid into southern Damascus, including into Yarmouk. There is extremely limited access to the camp.

With these ongoing clashes Jafra will continue to communicate any updates as they are reported from inside the camp.

“#Yarmouk Will Not Fall” is the last message we have received from our team and the civilians inside besieged Yarmouk Camp.

Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief
About Jafra Foundation for Youth Development and Relief

The Jafra Foundation for Relief and Youth Development is a Syrian-based NGO with offices in Yarmouk refugee camp. It works to ease the human suffering in cases of emergency, crises and disastrous situations, as well as to improve the living conditions prevailing in the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, by involving young people in the development process.

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18 Responses

  1. just
    just
    April 5, 2015, 9:18 am

    Horror.

    Isn’t Israel helping ISIS and Al- Nusra? Isn’t Al- Nusra who McCain et al wanted and did arm? All this because the unholy alliance wanted Assad gone.

    As I read from WeTeachLifeSir (via Max Blumenthal’s) twitter:

    “For those who believed Netanyahu when he said “Hamas=ISIS”, ISIS is currently beheading Palestinians in #Yarmouk.”

    https://twitter.com/WeTeachLifeSir_/status/584513866077339648

    More from Maureen Clare Murphy @

    ““Catastrophe” in Yarmouk as ISIS seizes camp

    …..Most Palestinians in Syria are refugees from the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine and their descendants. Israel refuses to respect the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land and property…..”

    http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/catastrophe-yarmouk-isis-seizes-camp

  2. aiman
    aiman
    April 5, 2015, 10:07 am

    ISIL and its supporters despise the very idea of Palestine. It goes against their cultish lens because like the Zionists their success depends on the displacement of others. They are willing to travel from liberal democracies to fight for their tribe and create new waves of refugees. They aim for a Greater Caliphate like Eretz Israel, not some pesky human determination or social justice. They can’t recognise tears on people’s faces. All along making big claims for themselves and their messiah Ibrahim Al-Badri. Like the Zionist project, the ISIL project is doomed with the looming power shift in the Middle East.

  3. concernedhuman
    concernedhuman
    April 5, 2015, 10:10 am

    After years of JSIL torturing them and making them “refugees” ISIL is torturing them.

    It must be like JSIL visiting them again. It must be like revisiting 1948 again though its still fresh in
    their memories.

  4. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    April 5, 2015, 1:50 pm

    RE: “Yarmouk-based NGO chronicles week of ISIS attacks on the Palestinian refugee camp in Syria”

    MEANWHILE, IN AMERICA:
    Twas the night before Easter, when all through the McMansion
    Not a creature was stirring, not even the pampered Fido;
    The HoneyBaked Ham™ was put in the absurdly oversized refrigerator with care,
    In hopes tomorrow’s meal would not be broken up by an argument over the Kardashians;
    The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
    While visions of Christ’s crucifixion danced in their heads . . .

    P.S. The Kardashians (assuming they actually exist) are proof positive that this is a very sick, degenerate country! ! !
    ~ ~ ~ OR ~ ~ ~
    The Kardashian phenomenon is proof positive that this is a very sick, degenerate country!
    ~ ~ ~ OR ~ ~ ~
    America’s fixation on (i.e., obsession with) The Kardashians™ (whether they actually exist or not) is proof positive that this is a very sick, degenerate country! ! !

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      April 5, 2015, 2:08 pm

      P.P.S. “Ode to Valparaiso Palestine”, by Pablo Neruda

      Palestine
      So small
      Like a cloth
      Helpless
      Hanging
      Ragged in a Window
      Swaying
      In the Wind
      of the ocean
      Impregnated
      With all the pain
      Of your ground
      Receiving
      The dew
      Of the sea, the kiss
      Of the wild angry sea
      That with all of its power
      Beat the rocks
      It could not
      Knock you down
      Because on your southern chest
      Is tattooed
      The struggle
      The hope
      The solidarity
      And the joy
      As anchors
      Resisting
      The waves of the earth.

      SOURCE – http://whiskeybowling.blogspot.com/2009/09/ode-to-valparaiso-pablo-neruda.html

  5. annie
    annie
    April 5, 2015, 2:37 pm

    beyond sad

    • just
      just
      April 5, 2015, 4:02 pm

      I watched it yesterday when Ben Norton shared that on his twitter.

      It is “beyond sad”, Annie.

      The ongoing Nakba is horrible, and Israel is responsible for it ALL, with more than a little help from their friends.

  6. Bornajoo
    Bornajoo
    April 5, 2015, 5:22 pm

    What horror. How can people be allowed to suffer endlessly like this? It’s shocking and disgraceful. And yes israel is fully responsible for this ongoing horror, torture and death.

    I just hope there is some truth in the law of karma

    • bintbiba
      bintbiba
      April 5, 2015, 7:49 pm

      @annie,

      @Just

      “beyond sad,”

      …..beyond words……beyond tears.

  7. just
    just
    April 5, 2015, 5:33 pm

    “Where did the Israeli blood libel against Arabs come from?

    An Israeli commentator’s reminiscence about his grandfather’s chilling acts in 1948 conjures the old axiom that Arabs would have done worse had the tables been turned – contrary to hundreds of years of co-existence.

    Like someone casually describing dinner, military commentator Yoaz Hendel wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth about how his grandfather would tell stories on Independence Day: Grandad would cut off Arabs’ ears during the 1947-49 war. Hendel’s indifference to those stories is astonishing. His piece in Yedioth’s weekend supplement a week ago doesn’t shed enough light on his grandfather’s chilling tales.

    “There isn’t logic in every story, and perhaps the only truth was the clucking chicken he brought home as war booty,” Hendel wrote. And why is there no logic? Were the 700,000 Arabs who were expelled during the war sent on air-conditioned buses clutching vouchers for five-star hotels?

    “He was nothing more than a Polish immigrant whose family was murdered in the Holocaust,” Hendel wrote. “Someone gave him a uniform and a gun and sent him to fight in the south.” The question is, did the people who sent him tell him he was going to fight evil people who wanted to murder Jews?

    All this took place during the dizzying transition from death camps in Europe to the shores of Palestine. It’s safe to assume that these survivors, like a pilot who confuses the sky with the ground, suffered serious vertigo and thought of Palestinians as Nazis in kaffiyehs. And now, 67 years later, Hendel describes his grandfather as a “Jew in the chain of generations who learned firsthand that there’s us and the people who hate us.”

    Either Jews or Jew-haters. Good luck to us all in the new world that Hendel is offering. In the past, he was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s director of communications and public diplomacy. Now with one sentence, Hendel has separated Jews from the peoples of the world.

    After reading the article, I wondered whether Hendel, in light of these chilling details, thought about looking into the matter. After all, it’s not easy being the grandson of someone who chops off ears. Unfortunately, it appears his grandfather’s stories didn’t stir much of a reaction in Hendel. The grandson enjoys comparing his grandfather’s actions to those of King David, who brought 200 Philistine foreskins as a gesture to his beloved.

    It turns out that Hendel’s conscience is eased in the next paragraph. “The great victory that founded the Jewish state is the Nakba of the Arabs who lived here,” he writes. “If it was the other way around, we wouldn’t be here.”

    Under this logic, we could justify all of history’s injustices. After all, every criminal could say that if the tables had been turned, the other side would have committed a similar crime.

    What, from this uncertainty he conjures an axiom that the Arabs would have murdered the Jews? All historians point out that even during the difficult days of the 1929 riots, many Arabs risked their lives to prevent the terrible massacres.

    And Jews lived here with Arabs for hundreds of years, and they lived here as good neighbors without an existential danger hanging over them. No Arab thought to destroy a Jewish holy site. In many places, Jewish sites were even preserved, even when no Jews were living in the area.

    If that’s the case, where did this blood libel against the Arabs come from? Not only were Arabs expelled in 1948, not only are they suffering systematic discrimination now, but according to Hendel, they’re all potential murderers. …

    …Really, what was our sin in our previous life that the grandson of someone who chopped off ears is preaching morality to us?”

    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.650603?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    Note to Oudeh Basharat: They are Palestinians! Don’t give in to their meme!

  8. Bandolero
    Bandolero
    April 5, 2015, 5:59 pm

    Oh, what tragic and sad bloody irony.

    From Al Akhbar, January 13, 2014: Yarmouk – A Palestinian Responsibility

    The camp’s most prominent group is Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis Brigades (Brigades in the Environs of Jerusalem), formed by members of Hamas, including a bodyguard of Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal. Hamas claims the group leaders are no longer within its organizational structure, but still refuses to condemn their actions. Some of these militants provided assistance to armed groups outside the camp and even outside Damascus countryside.

    So, Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis Brigades is essentially Hamas, which teamed up with Israel & Al Qaeda and betrayed the Syrian government after the Zionist-sponsored war on Syria started in 2011. And now this:

    It was then realized that Nusra had allowed ISIS into the camp, giving them access via streets they had been controlling previously. The two have now joined forces against Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis and other volunteer Palestinian fighters.

    Al Qaeda betrayed Hamas. How could they? And then this:

    Aknaf Beit Al Maqdis, along with those who had volunteered that day (in total about 500 fighters), waited for reinforcements to arrive from other armed opposition groups. These fighters came from Babilla and Beit Sahem.

    So, the brutal “siege” of the Syrian army on Yarmouk camp claimed by Hamas & Co seems not to be the truth. Even hundreds of fighters can access the Yarmouk camp from other terrorist infested areas near Damascus.

    Meanwhile the Syrian government does it’s best to help the civilians leave the terrorist infested Yarmouk camp. SANA reports (SANA, 05/04/2015: Thousands of residents flee terrorism-torn Yarmouk Camp):

    Up to 2000 people have fled in the past two days, who were moved to government-run makeshift centers in the al-Tadamun and al-Zahira neighborhoods.

    Time for Hamas to stop their sectarian-driven struggle against Syria.

    • just
      just
      April 5, 2015, 6:05 pm

      It is bitter and tragic.

      Assad is no prince, but he’s not the evil and dastardly devil that the US and Israel and others made and make him out to be.

      jmho.

    • annie
      annie
      April 7, 2015, 2:03 pm

      just read this bandelero, missed it the other day. ‘counter productive’ is an understatement, not adequate to describe hamas aligning itself against assad – all things considered – that’s for sure.

  9. mcohen.
    mcohen.
    April 6, 2015, 1:45 am

    assad is first and foremost a chemist

    he is a good man,honourable and has a way with chemical compounds that sooth the soul,catch spirits on the singing wind .

    he gave shelter to the refugees,yes he did, but in lebanon it was a syrian who betrayed the palestinians in the camps and now once again it is syrians who have betrayed the refugees in yarmouk,so i ask for retribution on belalf of the refugees in yarmouk,with winds that blow a firestorm to burn damascus to ashes so that it may be reborn as a city of peace,a memorial of G-d,s power.

    gevurot

  10. talknic
    talknic
    April 7, 2015, 11:44 pm

    Oooops there goes Netanyahu’s assertion that Palestinians = ISIS

  11. Jackdaw
    Jackdaw
    April 12, 2015, 2:29 am

    “Many civilians volunteered to join the fight to defend the camp from ISIS’s entrance.”

    Did Gazan civilians volunteer to fight Israel during Operation Protective Edge?

    Are human rights groups in Syria listing these dead Palestinian volunteers as militants or civilians?

    I’m confused.

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