Yarmouk According to the Residents of Yarmouk

There has been an overflow of accounts regarding what prevented a relief envoy from reaching Yarmouk. The speculation morphed into conviction that oppositional fighters shot at the envoy, thwarting efforts to end the siege that has been imposed for around half a year. It is exactly the news that neutralist Palestinians have been waiting for. Under the guise of being apolitical, these individuals and organizations have attempted to sidestep the issue of who is to blame for Yarmouk. But when reports emerged about the envoy being shot at by rebels, an apparent amnesia clouded this previous neutrality and many burst with indignation towards the opposition. Of course, it was the kind of ire that had been absent when Assad imposed the siege and held it for the better part of the last 6 months. During all of that, these individuals were perfectly content peddling false equivalence regarding who was to blame.

The accounts of various groups have been cited, used as definitive proof that the oppositional militants are at fault.

“In previous attempts, militants created problems and prevented the trucks from entering,” Anwar Abdul Hadi, the Palestinian ambassador to Syria, told Al-Akhbar, “Two days ago, militants prevented us from pulling the wounded … out of the camp.”

Ahmad al-Majdalani, leading the Palestinian delegation in Syria, echoed the claim by saying that it was Islamist militants who had shot at the envoy. The position of Ahmad Gibril’s gun-for-hire PFLP-GC, who have found alongside Assad and often shot at Palestinian demonstrators in Yarmouk, reaffirmed these accounts

Spokesperson for UNRWA, Chris Gunness, released a statement recognizing that the envoy had been shot at but fell short of identifying who was culpable. However, he did have this to say: “When Syrian authorities gave UNRWA clearance to proceed to deliver assistance to Yarmouk, they required UNRWA to use the southern entrance to Yarmouk. This meant the convoy had to drive some 20 kilometres through an area of intense and frequent armed conflict, in which numerous armed opposition groups, including some of the most extreme jihadist groups, have a strong and active presence. Citing security concerns, Syrian authorities did not give UNRWA permission to use the northern entrance to Yarmouk which is under government control, and which is generally regarded as more likely to be accessible with relatively less risk.”

It is, of course, striking to anyone paying attention to the statement that the regime insisted that the envoy take a path that would invite a clash. More striking is the fact that this statement has been hijacked as proof that rebels prevented the aid from reaching Yarmouk, the implication being that the opposition should be held entirely accountable for Yarmouk’s starvation. Instead of embarking on a longwinded response to these absurd allegations, I will do what many speculators have, unfortunately, neglected to do: I will offer the accounts of Palestinians from Yarmouk.

The first video shows a group of Palestinians from Yarmouk, many with the local Red Crescent, walking towards the meeting point to received aid from the envoy. They are unable to reach it, despite numerous attempts, given the heavy firing. “There is no real pressure on the Syrian regime,” points out one of the residents heading to the envoy, “If there was real pressure, they wouldn’t have brought us all this way. They could have opened the beginning of the camp to let the envoy in. And no need to even let the envoy in. Just open the road for the people.”

Footage taken after the aid failed to reached Yarmouk showcases the resentment and continued suffering of residents. And highlights that, despite our own speculation, they are still very much aware of who is to blame for their starvation:

“Brother, the aid didn’t enter. We were all present, groups of civilians from the camp. What happened is the Syrian regime and Jibrils (Ahmad Jibril of the PFLP-GC) people began a skirmish to prevent THE aid from entering. We had no militants, no weapons. And the people that were present, as you can see, were all civilians, none of us HAVE weapons. So they began a skirmish, and started saying there are people from your end that are shooting at us. We have no one that was shooting, we are only here to take the aid to the people. So they began this skirmish and shot three missiles at us from a tank, we have no tanks, three tank missiles at us. And the men took footage of the place where the tank missile was shot. They did this to increase the siege on the camp. And it is the killing of the Palestinian people and this area. So the matter is with you, there needs to be a solution for this area in any form.”

Interviewer: “There is talk that there are militant groups in the camp that..”

Yarmouk resident, interrupting: “Lies. There is none of this at all. We saw all the people on the front and they said they wouldn’t fire. We all agree on this. On this basis, the aid would enter”

“We are all civilians. We raised the Red Crescent flag and entered”

“The solution is for people on the outside to get moving.”

Talal Alyan

Talal is a Palestinian-American writer based in Brooklyn. He tweets here.


  1. […] the 15th of January, media quickly took up this storyline. However, camp residents knew better. “Brother, the aid didn’t enter. We were all present, groups of civilians from the camp. What happened is the Syrian regime and […]

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