Thousands of Palestinians flee refugee camp near Latakia, Syria - UNRWA

Thousands of Palestinian refugees have fled their camp in the city of Latakia on Syria’s Mediterranean coast amid an assault in the area by Syrian forces, UNRWA Spokesman Chris Gunness told The Electronic Intifada by telephone from Gaza.

According to Gunness, UNRWA has received information from a broad range of sources that more than half of the camp’s approximately 10,000 residents had left the camp after being ordered to do so by Syrian authorities. Gunness said the camp had come under attack from gunboats at sea, and by land.

Syrian forces have been engaged in a violent crackdown on protests in a number of cities throughout the country and information has been difficult to obtain as authorities have cut off most communications.

Gunness told The Electronic Intifada:

We don’t know how many they are. We don’t know if they’re sick, if they’re children, or if they’re elderly, what their medical condition is or who is looking after them, who is feeding them or who is housing them. It’s a really alarming situation.

He added that UNRWA operates four schools in the camp. It also runs a health center, food distribution center, a community center and a youth center. While schools were already closed due to Ramadan, other facilities are now closed due to the crisis.

UNRWA, a UN agency, provides services to almost five million Palestinian refugees living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. There are approximately 475,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria.

Update

Speaking on the BBC World Service, Gunness has subsequently stated that 4 people had been “confirmed dead” in the camp.

Chris Gunness on Al Jazeera English

Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency handling Palestinian refugees says the Syrian army has fired at a refugee camp in the city of Latakia. He condemns the violence and calls for immediate access to the site.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.