Quarterly Updates for (16 Aug 2016 — 15 Nov 2016)

For the 2d quarter in a row, the plight of the Palestinian residents of Khan Eshieh r.c. outside Damascus was in the spotlight, with continued fighting nr. the Syrian capital placing them in an increasingly dangerous position. According to Emad al-Muslimani, a media activist living in the camp, the shelling of Khan Eshieh escalated in late 9/2016, following a lull in the wake of the initial escalation in 5/2016 (see JPS 46 [1]). “Barrel bombs, cluster munitions, bunker-buster missiles, you name it,” he wrote in an online article. “It is like the camp is being used as a testing ground for weapons” (Electronic Intifada, 10/12). The Syrian army, with Russian air support, was reportedly attempting to retake towns in the area from rebel groups, and the camp’s residents were caught in the crossfire, despite their insistence that there was no rebel presence in the camp at all.

Two particularly devastating incidents lent renewed urgency to the camp’s plight in 10/2016. First, air strikes on 10/6 led to the death of an 18-mo.-old Palestinian baby, followed by 2 men later that day. In response, camp residents marched through the streets on 10/11 to call for an end to the shelling and for safe passage in and out of the camp so they could obtain medical and other supplies. Their call was ignored, and further air strikes killed 4 Palestinian refugees and 1 Syrian woman on 10/18. The victims were reportedly attempting to flee along the unpaved Zaki Road, nicknamed “Death Road” because of its frequent targeting by air strikes and sniper fire. One aid worker, who asked not to be identified by name, said that “families that want to go out, or refugees who want to go get bread or medicine, use this bumpy road only at night, risking both crashes and shelling” (Electronic Intifada, 10/25). In response to the shelling, UNRWA released (10/21) a statement saying that Khan Eshieh r.c. was “at risk of becoming another Yarmouk,” referring to the largest Palestinian r.c. in Syria, which the conflict there has all but destroyed. According to UNRWA, the 10/18 strike brought to 31 the number of Palestinian refugees killed in Khan Eshieh since the 5/2016 escalation of violence in the area.