CLEANUP CREW: Warring factions in Yarmouk camp agreed over the weekend to a truce that would re-open the camp, not only to allow in food and supplies, but also thousands of residents who fled the intense battles and the regime’s encirclement of the camp starting in December 2012.
“We reached an agreement on Saturday that ensures the exit of all combatants from the camp under the auspices of the Syrian state and the PLO, and the combatants agreed to the conditions,” the Palestinian Liberation Organization announcedthrough its ambassador in Damascus, Anour Abdalhadi. The agreement will reportedly empty the camp of fighters and arms, end the suffering of residents and allow for the return of displaced persons.
Among other items, the truce stipulatesthe placement of checkpoints around the camp’s perimeter to prevent the entrance of arms or militants. It also guarantees that Yarmouk will not be subject to further military operations, and allows the return of any fighter provided he lays down his arms and is not currently implicated in a murder case.
Teams will also begin a mass cleanup, pictured above, in preparation for the return of displaced residents. Pictures posted on the “Yarmouk Camp News” Facebook page showthe return of a number of residents to the camp, as well as young men engaged in clearing roads and cleaning within the premises.
Roughly 20,000 residents currently live in Yarmouk, down from an estimated 160,000 before the Syrian uprising. Many of the 20,000 are not original residents but displaced Syrians who fled fighting in Damascus suburbs occupied by the regime, Muhammad a-Nusra, a member of the Union of Revolutionary Local Coordination Committees located in Yarmouk, told Syria Direct on Monday.
Violence firstbroke out in the camp between anti-regime residents and the pro-regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command in June 2011, when 14 residents were shot dead by PFLP-GC. Rebels then took control of the camp in December 2012.
Up until the agreement was signed, a patchwork of rebel groups, including FSA brigades, Liwa al-Asifa (made up predominantly of Palestinians), Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic Front were battling regime forces allied with the PFLP-GC.
Regime forces surrounded Yarmouk Camp in December 2012, and tightened the siege in July 2013, preventing the entry of all people, food, and medicines. Residents who remained faced deteriorating health conditions and a lack of food or medicine.
UNRWA teams were unable to distribute aid for nearly two weeks before the agreement was signed over the weekend. Amnesty International published a reportin March which counted 194 deaths from “starvation, lack of adequate medical care and shooting by snipers” since July 2013.
A similar agreement between combatant factions was reached in December 2013, and lasted only weeks before falling apart.