AMMAN: Thousands of residents of Syria’s southwest Quneitra province are seeking shelter after snow, flooding and harsh winds destroyed more than half of their canvas tents over the past three days.
Quneitra province, located in southwest Syria along the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, is home to an estimated 3,500 displaced Syrians, primarily from Daraa and Outer Damascus, who now live in six clusters of ad-hoc camps along the western Syrian border.
With the region’s high elevation, displaced residents are subject to harsher weather than other parts of Syria, including strong winds and sub-zero temperatures in the winter.
A-Rahmah camp after the snowstorm. Photo courtesy of camp organizer Abu Firas.
A multi-day snowstorm began late last week followed by heavy rains and subsequent thawing, causing major flooding in the majority of Quneitra’s camps, Abu Firas, a displaced resident in southern Quneitra’s a-Rahmah camp, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.
“Most residents now desperately need tents for shelter, clothing, and mattresses,” said Abu Firas, who fled Damascus with his family in 2013 and settled in the makeshift camps of south Quneitra province.
Currently, Abu Firas acts as the de facto organizer for a-Rahmah camp, which provided shelter for 48 families until the camp was destroyed by wind and flooding this week.
The families have gathered in the few camp sites that remain, explained Abu Firas, burning any available firewood and plastic for heat.
“The situation we’re faced with…I can’t even describe it,” he said.
“People are worried they’ll die from the cold and are scared for the children. Their bodies can’t take these intense temperatures.”
It's been several months since the last humanitarian aid arrived. The last convoy delivered small amount of diesel fuel, said Abu Firas. Most residents sold the fuel for larger supplies of firewood and food, but it is still not enough to meet the residents' needs.
Shelling of rebel factions in southern Quneitra (FSA, Jabhat Fateh a-Sham, and Jaish al-Islam) from regime positions in north Quneitra appear to be the main obstacle to aid deliveries.