Bulldozers scoop slow way to recovery in Syria’s Yarmuk

Bulldozers scoop slow way to recovery in Syria’s Yarmuk
A woman stands in the rubble as Syrian regime began to clean the wreckage at the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus on October 09, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018

Bulldozers scoop slow way to recovery in Syria’s Yarmuk

Bulldozers scoop slow way to recovery in Syria’s Yarmuk

YARMUK: Not far from where he used to live, Palestinian engineer Mahmud Khaled watched as bulldozers rumbled back and forth scooping up smashed concrete from the devastated streets of Syria’s Yarmuk.
Once home to 160,000 Palestinian refugees, the camp in the Damascus suburbs has been emptied of its inhabitants and pounded to rubble in Syria’s seven-year war.
But five months after regime forces expelled the last jihadists in the area, soldiers now stand guard at the camp’s entrance, wearing face masks to protect themselves against the dust billowing up into the air.
On a narrow street inside the camp where he grew up, Khaled has returned to help oversee bulldozers and diggers engaged in joint Palestinian-Syrian clean-up operations.
“When we first entered, we were horrified by what we saw,” said the 56-year-old engineer, wearing a light grey and white checkered shirt.
“But after we started the clean-up, it all started to look up,” Khaled said.
Off Yarmuk’s main artery, recently cleared side streets are flanked by buildings ravaged by years of fighting.
Some have been reduced to mountains of grey rubble and mangled rebar. In others, entire floors dangle dangerously downwards, their steel rods jutting out.
“We have shifted 50,000 cubic meters of rubble and reopened all the main roads,” Khaled said.
But “it will be a while before families can come back,” he added.
As Khaled surveyed the neighborhood, a yellow bulldozer spilled rubble into a large red truck behind him.
Tens of thousands have fled Yarmuk since Syria’s conflict started in 2011 and government forces imposed a crippling siege on the then rebel-held camp a year later.
Since the latest round of fighting to expel the Daesh group ended in May, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said no residents have been allowed to return.
Walking through the camp, Khaled pointed out his former home and the office where he used to work. The first had been damaged in fighting, while the second was completely destroyed.

Reduced to Rubble

With about a fifth of Yarmuk reduced to rubble in the war, according to an initial estimate, Khaled said there is still much work to be done.
And although he estimates 40 percent of the buildings could be lived in, another 40 percent need major work before their residents can return.
When he visited the camp in May, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness described it as lying “in ruins.”
Basic services such as water and electricity were so severely damaged, he said, that it was hard to imagine people returning any time soon.
Funded by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Syrian government, the clearing operation has been ongoing for 20 days and is expected to take another month to complete.
But there are no clear plans yet for the reconstruction of the neighborhood or its ravaged infrastructure.
PLO official Anwar Abdel Hadi told AFP he hoped reconstruction would start “as soon as possible so that our people can return to the camp.”
“But the rebuilding is still awaiting a government decision,” he said.
Back in Yarmuk, Ibrahim Am Ali walked between the bulldozers, oblivious to the dust permeating his clothes.
“I was desperate when I saw how destroyed the building was where my brothers and I had gathered over the past years,” said the 74-year-old, also part of the team overseeing the clean-up work.
Now “we have started rebuilding the camp,” the Syrian-Palestinian said, wearing a light purple shirt.
“Perhaps I will never see it completely rebuilt, but it’s enough for me to have taken part in the very beginning.”


32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur

32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur
Sudan’s war-scarred Darfur region is always prone to communal clashes. (AP)
Updated 17 January 2021

32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur

32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur
  • The footage also showed women and children carrying their belongings, allegedly fleeing clashes in the camp

CAIRO: Clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur have killed at least 32 people, according to a local medical official, as Sudanese authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew on the province.
Darfur remains scarred by war after a rebellion in the early 2000s was brutally suppressed. The most recent violence comes two weeks after the UN Security Council ended the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force’s mandate in the Darfur region.
Salah Saleh, a doctor and former medical director at the main hospital in the provincial capital of Genena, said the clashes wounded at least 79 others. “It’s horrible,” he said. “Until now, people cannot reach any hospitals.”
Salah warned that the casualty toll was likely much higher. The violence erupted on Friday in Genena, when an Arab man was stabbed to death at a market in the Krinding camp for internally displaced people, aid worker Al-Shafei Abdalla said. He said the suspect was arrested.
On Saturday, the dead man’s family — from the Arab Rizeigat tribe — attacked the Krinding camp, burning most of its houses, said Abdalla.
Gov. Mohammed Abdalla Al-Douma said the government would impose a curfew that would include the closure of all markets and a ban on gatherings across the province. Al-Douma granted security forces and soldiers a mandate to use force to control the situation.
The prime minister’s office in Khartoum said in a statement a high-ranking delegation led by the country’s top prosecutor would head to Genena “to take necessary measures” to re-establish stability in West Darfur. The statement did not give a casualty toll from the clashes.
Adam Regal, a spokesman for a local organization that helps run refugee camps in Darfur, shared footage showing the burned homes and property in the Krinding camp following Saturday’s attack.
The video included graphic images of wounded people with blood-stained clothes. The footage also showed women and children carrying their belongings, allegedly fleeing clashes in the camp.