Yarmouk Camp

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Jafra-PFLP-Office-Yarmouk Camp.jpg
Jafra Palestinian Youth Center in Yarmouk Camp
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Location in Syria
Coordinates: 33°28′N36°18′E / 33.467°N 36.300°E / 33.467; 36.300 Coordinates: 33°28′N36°18′E / 33.467°N 36.300°E / 33.467; 36.300
Country Flag of Syria.svg  Syria
Governorate Damascus Governorate
  Total2.11 km2 (0.81 sq mi)
Area code(s) 11

Yarmouk Camp (Arabic : مخيم اليرموكMukhayyam al-Yarmūk) is a 2.11-square-kilometre (520-acre) district of the city of Damascus, populated by Palestinians, with hospitals and schools. It is located 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the center of Damascus and inside the municipal boundaries but when established in 1957, it was outside the surrounding city. Yarmouk is an "unofficial" refugee camp; it was home to the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria. As of June 2002, there were 112,550 registered refugees living in Yarmouk. [1]

Damascus City in Syria

Damascus is the capital of the Syrian Arab Republic; it is also the country's largest city, following the decline in population of Aleppo due to the battle for the city. It is colloquially known in Syria as aš-Šām (الشام) and titled the "City of Jasmine". In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major cultural center of the Levant and the Arab world. The city has an estimated population of 1,711,000 as of 2009.

Syria Country in Western Asia

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turks. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunni make up the largest religious group in Syria.


During the Syrian Civil War, Yarmouk camp became the scene of intense fighting in 2012 between the Free Syrian Army and the PFLP-GC supported by Syrian Army government forces. The camp then was consequently taken over by various factions and was deprived of supplies, resulting in hunger, [2] diseases and a high death rate, which caused many to leave. By the end of 2014, the camp population had gone down to just 20,000 residents.

Syrian Civil War Ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria

The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria fought between the Ba'athist Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad, along with domestic and foreign allies, and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government and each other in varying combinations.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command political party

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command or PFLP-GC is a Palestinian nationalist militant organisation based in Syria. It was founded in 1968 by Ahmed Jibril after splitting from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) based on claims that it was producing impotent intellectuals, and not making any meaningful progress in terms of armed struggle to liberate Palestine. In the 1970s and 1980s it was involved in the Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon and launched a number of attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians; including the Avivim school bus massacre (1970), the bombing of Swissair Flight 330 (1970), the Kiryat Shmona massacre (1974) and the Night of the Gliders (1987). Since the late 1980s it has been largely inactive, but during the Syrian Civil War it has been fighting on the side of the Syrian government.

In early April 2015, most of the Yarmouk camp was overrun by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, sparking armed clashes with Palestinian militia Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis. At this point the population was estimated at 18,000. [3] [4] After intense fighting in April/May 2018, Syrian government forces took the camp, its population now reduced to 100-200.

Battle of Yarmouk Camp (2015) battle of the Syrian Civil War

The Battle of Yarmouk Camp (2015) was a battle that broke out in April 2015, during the Syrian Civil War, when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant stormed the rebel-held Yarmouk Camp. The Yarmouk Camp is a district of Damascus that is home to the largest community of Palestinian refugees in Syria.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Salafi jihadist terrorist and militant group

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, officially as the Islamic State (IS) and by its Arabic language acronym Daesh, is a Salafi jihadist militant group and former unrecognised proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Salafi doctrine of Sunni Islam. ISIL gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre.

Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis

Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis was a Syrian Palestinian rebel group active during the Syrian Civil War.



Yarmouk was established in 1957 on an area of 2.11 square kilometres (0.81 sq mi) to accommodate refugees who were squatters. [1] Though it was not officially recognized as a refugee camp, road signs leading to this sector of the city read "Mukhayyam al-Yarmouk", meaning "Yarmouk camp". [1] Administratively, Yarmouk is a city (madina) in the Damascus Governorate. [5]

Damascus Governorate Governorate in Syria

Damascus Governorate is one of the fourteen governorates (provinces) of Syria. Completely surrounded by the Rif Dimashq Governorate, it consists only of the city of Damascus, the capital of Syria, and the suburb of Yarmouk Camp.

Operation and living

Over time, refugees living in Yarmouk improved and expanded their housing. Currently, the district was densely populated, with cement block homes and narrow streets. Two main roads were lined with shops and filled with service taxis and microbuses that ran through the camp. [1] The BBC wrote that, although Yarmouk "is identified as a camp, there are no tents or slums in sight. It is a residential area with beauty salons and internet cafes". [6]

Living conditions in Yarmouk appeared to be better than in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, and residents of the camp numbered many professionals— doctors, engineers and civil servants, as well as many casual laborers and street vendors. [1]

There were four hospitals and a number of government-run secondary schools. UNRWA operated 20 elementary schools and eight preparatory schools in the camp, and sponsors two women's program centers. There were three UNRWA health care centers in Yarmouk, two of which received upgrades in 1996 with contributions from the government of Canada. In 1997, six schools were upgraded with contributions from the government of the United States, and a kindergarten was built with funds from the government of Australia. In 1998, the UNRWA was also able to construct a health center funded by the government of the Netherlands. [1] There was another Health Center whose expertise is devoted to prevention and treatment of thalassemia. The Center was built in 2009 thanks to funds provided by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

During the Syrian Civil War

During the Syrian Civil War, Yarmouk camp became the scene of intense fighting between the Free Syrian Army and its Palestinian ally Liwa al-Asifa on the one hand, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) supported by Syrian Army government forces on the other. Subsequently, the Syrian Army besieged the camp, leading to many leaving the area and causing a significant deterioration in conditions for the more than 18,000 Palestinian refugees and other Syrians remaining inside the camp, whom the UN described as living in "complete deprivation". [3]

On 1 April 2015, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters entered the camp from the Hajar al-Aswad district, sparking clashes with Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis and the Free Syrian Army [7] - reportedly with the collaboration of Jabhat al-Nusra fighters in the camp, with whom they were then locally allied. [8] ISIL initially took over much of the camp, but was later pushed back from some areas, before eventually regaining control. On April 2, it was reported that that ISIL was pushed back, but they re-entered 3 April; according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the 3 April ISIL attack resulted in 40 ISIL militants killed. [9] [ better source needed ] By 4 April, the camp was reported to have been wholly taken by ISIL, and executions of residents to have begun. [10] Palestinian sources reported about 12 camp residents killed, [11] while the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported 13 residents executed by ISIL on 5 April; [12] and independent sources also confirmed two fatalities from mortar fire in an adjacent Damascus area.[ citation needed ] It was reported that despite Palestinian militia resistance and parallel bombing by the Syrian Air Force, ISIL still controlled 90% of the camp by 6 April.[ citation needed ] The situation in the camp came to the attention of the UN Security Council, leading to discussions about the situation of some 18,000 residents of the occupied camp. [4] It has been reported that many civilian Palestinians have been killed during the fighting. [13] [14] [15] [16]

In July 2015, the UN quietly removed Yarmouk from its list of besieged areas in Syria, despite not having been able to deliver aid there for four months, and declined to explain why it had done so. [17]

By April 2016, there are only between 7,000 and 8,000 residents left in the camp due to militant fighting within the camp, conscription by the regime and the use of wide area effect weapons such as barrel bombs. Former residents are displaced to other areas of Syria or have fled outside, including Lebanon and Europe. [18]

In early 2017, with Qatari mediation, the "Four Towns" truce was brokered between pro-government and Salafi factions, to end some of the ongoing sieges forming part of the conflict (see Siege of al-Fu'ah and Kafriya, Siege of Darayya and Muadamiyat) as well as to initiate a ceasefire in areas bordering Yarmouk. As a result of this deal, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters were evacuated from Yarmouk on 7 May, and ISIL fighters were also reported to be preparing to leave. [8] [19]

Ending the siege

On 19 April 2018, the Syrian government and its allies began a push to take Hajar al-Aswad, Tadamun and Beit Sahem, which make up the majority of Yarmouk, using surface-to-surface missiles, barrel and cluster bombs, and mortar fire in more than 580 air raids, with local activists reporting at least 15 civilians killed and more than 100 wounded. [20] The offensive involved Aleppo-based Palestinian militia Liwa al-Quds, Russian-backed Tiger Forces, National Defence Forces, a privately funded Palestinian militia, and Palestinian factions Fatah al-Intifada and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC). [21] The UNRWA reported around 5,000 Palestinians from Yarmouk were displaced to Yalda in the following six days, leaving 1,200 residents, [20] although local sources reported 2,500 families [22] or 3,000 people [23] were still there. By 25 April, local sources said that at least 20 civilians had been killed. [22] The UN described the camp as “transformed into a death camp", reporting thousands of homes and the last functioning hospital destroyed. [24] The UK-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria said 60% of the camp had been destroyed in the government offensive by 27 April. [23] On 30 April, al-Nusra's remaining fighters surrendered, and were evacuated by bus to Idlib. [25] By 5 May, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that the Syrian army controlled two-thirds of the camp. [26] On 16 May, a new pro-government assault on the camp with air strikes and surface-to-surface missiles, with only a few hundred, mainly elderly, residents left inside; dozens of civilians and over 100 fighters on both sides were reported killed. [27] On 19 May, Russian and pro-government sources reported a ceasefire between the government and ISIL, [28] although this was denied by official government media, andb busloads of ISIL fighters were reported to be evacuated by the government. [29] [30]

On 21 May, pro-government troops fully recaptured the camp, as ISIL fighters pulled out to deserts east of the city, thus allowing the Syrian Arab Army to control the capital after 6 years. [21] [31] In the month of fighting, a total of at least 21 civilians were reported killed, and 7,000 people — including 6,200 Palestinians — displaced from their homes. [21] An UNRWA spokesman said 100 to 200 civilians were estimated to still be in Yarmouk. [31] Sheikh Mohammed al-Omari, a cleric loyal to the government, condemned government troops and allied militias for looting homes in the captured neighbourhood. [31] According to The Economist , many Palestinians believe the government plans to redevelop Yarmouk for use by Syrians. [25]

On April 3, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian army, in coordination with the Syrian military, had discovered the remains of missing Israeli soldier Zechariah Baumel, along with those of 20 other people, in a cemetery in the Yarmouk Camp. Baumel had gone missing after the Battle of Sultan Yacoub during the 1982 Lebanon War and his whereabouts were unknown in the decades since. Baumel's remains were returned to Israel and buried in the Mount Herzl military ceremony in Jerusalem on April 4. [32] [33]

See also

Related Research Articles

Ahmed Jibril is the founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC).

Ain al-Hilweh Refugee camp in South Governorate, Lebanon

Ain al-Hilweh, also spelled as Ayn al-Hilweh and Ein al-Hilweh, is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. It had a population of over 70,000 Palestinian refugees but swelled to nearly 120,000, as a result of influx of refugees from Syria since 2011. The camp is located west of the village Miye ou Miye and the Mieh Mieh refugee camp, southeast of the port city of Sidon and north of Darb Es Sim.

Al-Hajar al-Aswad Place in Rif Dimashq Governorate, Syria

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On 13 August 2011, during the Civil uprising phase of the Syrian civil war, the Syrian Army and Syrian Navy launched an operation in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, in order to end an anti-Assad rebellion in the Palestinian camp. The operation resulted in dozens killed and wounded. Latakia, however, has remained quiet throughout the conflict in Syria.

This is a broad timeline of the course of major events of the Syrian Civil War. It only includes major territorial changes and attacks and does not include every event.

Sectarianism and minorities in the Syrian Civil War Wikimedia list article

The Syrian Civil War is an intensely sectarian conflict. The focus of the conflict has been identified by some as a ruling minority Alawite government and allied Shi'a governments such as Iran, pitted against the country's Sunni Muslim majority who are aligned with the Syrian opposition and their Sunni Turkish and Persian Gulf state backers. However Sunni Muslims make up the majority of the Syrian Arab Army and many hold high governmental positions. Others identify it as the secular Syrian government, made up of all religious groups pitted against the Islamist opposition. The conflict had drawn in other ethno-religious minorities, including Armenians, Assyrians, Druze, Palestinians, Kurds, Yazidi, Mhallami, Arab Christians, Mandaeans, Turkmens and Greeks.

Battle of Damascus (2012)

The Battle of Damascus, also known as Operation Damascus Volcano, started on 15 July 2012 during the Syrian Civil War. It is unclear who started the battle. Thousands of rebels infiltrated Damascus from the surrounding countryside. Following this, according to some reports, the opposition forces launched an operation to capture the capital, while according to other reports, the military learned of the large-scale rebel operation beforehand and made a preemptive strike. Some reports even suggested the rebels launched the operation prematurely due to their plans being discovered by the security forces.

Rif Dimashq offensive (August–October 2012)

The Rif Dimashq offensive was a Syrian Army offensive in the Rif Dimashq Governorate during August–October 2012, as part of the Syrian Civil War.

The Battle of Yarmouk Camp was a period of fierce clashes in Yarmouk Camp during the Syrian Civil War. Yarmouk is a district of Damascus that is home to the biggest community of Palestinian refugees in Syria. The fighting was between the Syrian Army and PFLP-GC on one side, and Syrian rebels on the other. The rebels included the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and a group made up of Palestinians, called Liwa al-Asifa or Storm Brigade. On 17 December, it was reported that the FSA and anti-Assad Palestinians had taken control of the camp. The FSA and Syrian Army agreed to leave Yarmouk as a neutral, demilitarized zone, but sporadic clashes continued.

Syrian refugee camps

Syrian refugee camps and shelters are temporary settlements built to receive internally displaced people and refugees of the Syrian Civil War. Of the estimated 7 million persons displaced within Syria, only a small minority live in camps or collective shelters. Similarly, of the 6 million refugees, only about 10 percent live in refugee camps, with the vast majority living in both urban and rural areas of neighboring countries. Beside Syrians, they include Iraqis, Palestinians, Kurds, Yazidis, individuals from Somalia, and a minority of those who fled the Yemeni and Sudanese civil wars.

Palestinians in Syria are people of Palestinian origin, most of whom have been residing in Syria after they were displaced from their homeland during the 1948 Palestinian exodus. Palestinians hold most of the same rights as the Syrian population.

The following is a timeline of the Syrian Civil War from September to December 2017. Information about aggregated casualty counts is found at Casualties of the Syrian Civil War.

Southern Damascus offensive (January–February 2018)

The Southern Damascus offensive began on 5 January 2018 as Jaysh al-Islam fighters attempted to infiltrate ISIL positions within the orchards situated in-between Yalda and Hajjar As-Aswad to the immediate south of Damascus city. This resulted in numerous casualties and as such, a week later, on 12 January ISIL shock troops launched a counter-assault on Yalda's Zein neighborhood, triggering heavy clashes, resulting in the eventual capture of several buildings in the area. On 22 January, ISIL made further progress in Taqdam Neighborhood of Hajjar al-Aswad, to this date ISIL ended up controlling 3/4 of Yarmouk Camp, majority of Hajjar al-Aswad, Qadam, Tadamon and large part of Yalda's eastern axis. Fighting continued with ISIL forces continuing their advance against other militant groups later into January, with majority of a street between Yalda and Babbila as well as some gains within the district of Tadamon. By 27 January, ISIL controlled almost entirety of Hajjar al-Aswad after breaking through the last lines of defense and were on the verge of entering the town of Yalda, during the same time, further areas were also captured in the Yarmouk district.

Southern Damascus offensive (March 2018)

The Southern Damascus offensive started on 12 March 2018, when ISIL began attacking rebel positions in the al-Qadam neighborhood of southern Damascus as they were evacuating. The rebel pocket in al-Qadam had been surrounded on one side by government forces and on the other by ISIL. On 10 March, ISIL threatened to kill any rebels that evacuate from the area after the Syrian government gave the rebels 48 hours to surrender the district and evacuate. Following news of the upcoming rebel evacuation from al-Qadam, ISIL forces attacked the rebels on 12 March and captured 25 percent of the neighborhood. The next day, around 300 rebel fighters and their family members were evacuated from al-Qadam to rebel territory in Idlib province. After the evacuation, government troops took control of 70 percent of the neighborhood, while the remaining 30 was under IS control. During the fighting, government air-strikes were conducted against ISIL in Al-Hajar al-Aswad and al-Qadam. While the clashes were taking place in Qadam, rebel groups attempted to break through ISIL lines in Yarmouk but were repelled.

Free Palestine Movement

The Free Palestine Movement is a Palestinian Syrian armed movement and community organization that is led by the businessman Yasser Qashlaq and supports the Baa'athist government of Syria. The organization opposes the existence of Israel, and was mostly known for political activism and social services in favor of Palestinians in Syria and the Gaza Strip before 2012. Upon the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, however, the Free Palestine Movement formed its own militias and has since then openly fought for the Syrian government against various rebel groups.

Southern Damascus offensive (April–May 2018)

The Southern Damascus offensive began on 19 April 2018 when the Syrian Armed Forces began to clear an enclave held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in southern Damascus in the Yarmouk Camp.

The following is a timeline of the Syrian Civil War from May to August 2018. Information about aggregated casualty counts is found at Casualties of the Syrian Civil War.


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  11. 12 Palestinian refugees killed in Yarmouk, qassam.ps
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  23. 1 2 Estimated 60 percent of Yarmouk destroyed amid violence: Group, Al-Jazeera27 April 2018
  24. Raf Sanchez Palestinian refugee camp in Syria turns 'unimaginably brutal' as Assad regime drives Isil out of Yarmouk, Daily Telegraph 26 April 2018
  25. 1 2 Syria is erasing the Palestinians’ largest refugee camp, Economist, May 3rd 2018
  26. Syrian army controls 65% of Yarmouk Refugee Camp, say Russians, Middle East Monitor May 5, 2018
  27. Josie Ensor Syrian and Russian forces launch large-scale attack on Palestinian refugee camp controlled by Isil, Daily Telegraph, 16 May 2018
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