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Palestinians in Syria Still Can't Return to Yarmouk Camp

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A member of the Syrian pro-government forces carries the national flag as he stands in front of damaged buildings in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee campon the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 22, 2018
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces carries the national flag as he stands in front of damaged buildings in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on May 22, 2018Credit: AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA

Displaced Palestinians from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria still have to wait to return after the liberation of the extremists-held camp which requires full reconstruction.

The Syrian government troops on April 19 began its military operation to take back the al-Hajar al-Aswad District, seven kilometers to downtown Damascus, along with the adjacent Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp which were occupied by extremists, with the support of air strikes and intensive cannon and rocket strikes.

The government forces on May 21 announced that the district, the last extremist stronghold in southern Damascus, has been recaptured, marking the military's complete control over Damascus and its suburbs after seven years of fighting.

Reconstruction needed for displaced Palestinians to return to Yarmouk camp

The Yarmouk refugee camp is located south of the Syrian capital Damascus and is the largest shelter for Palestinian refugees in Syria, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

It was not an official camp but a residential area for Syrians and Palestinians.

"The camp was the spark from which the Palestinian resistance began. Palestinian history since the 1960s has been linked to the Yarmouk camp. The number of Palestinians who have been displaced has reached 90,000," said Abdel Rahman Ghoneim, president of the Union of Palestinian Writers and Journalists in Syria.

Its market was also the most popular in Damascus, not to mention the fact that it was the intersection point of adjacent commercial and industrial areas in the south of Damascus.

"We came to Syria in 1948 from Palestine, and Yarmouk camp became the first economic center in Damascus. But it was destroyed, and the effort of the days and efforts of all the people were destroyed because of the armed forces that invaded Yarmouk," said Abu Ahmed, a Palestinian refugee from the camp.

The intrusion by armed militants into the area resulted in mass exodus of the people from the camp, forcing them to suffer again the tragedy of the first displacement from their homes in Palestine.

"The armed men attacked us and we left the camp. And then they destroyed our homes for reasons we don't know. We do not know on what basis we went out for seven years and we don't know why this destruction took place,” said Abu Yusr, a resident of the camp.

"We fought with the army and four of our brothers were sacrificed," said Muhannad Saqli, a Palestinian who had been fighting with the Syrian army. "Thank God we have the honor of return and victory for the camp."

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