Palestinians demand Assad regime stop Yarmouk refugee gentrification
An open letter was written by the Working Group for the Palestinians of Syria addressed plans by Bashar al-Assad's regime to convert the Yarmouk camp into an upper-class neighbourhood, where 160,000 Palestinian refugees live.
The group explained that during the past nine years of war in Syria, the Yarmouk camp was subject to deliberate and systematic destruction by the Assad regime.
They also accused the Assad regime of trying to kill off the Palestinian refugee population through bombing, starvation, siege, and demolition.
It also led to the forced displacement of refugees under the "theatrical" guise of freeing the camp from the Islamic State group.
They added that this plan comes to end what is left of the camp and turn it into a Damascus neighbourhood.
The group's statement added that the displaced residents wanting to return are being financially blackmailed.
Yarmouk was once a thriving district of the capital, home to some 160,000 Palestinian refugees as well as Syrians. Most of its population fled waves of fierce fighting that also swept through camp between 2012 and 2015.
Held by opposition and jihadi factions for much of the war, Yarmouk had been subject to barrel bombings by the brutal Assad regime, along with disappearances and children being detained.
In July 2018, Pierre Krahenbuhl, then head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said after a visit to Yarmouk that the level of destruction of the camp is "shocking".
"A visit to Yarmouk is a very deeply moving experience. You can't escape a deep sense of shock at the level of destruction," he told reporters after the first visit to the Palestinian refugee camp for several years by a senior UN official.
"The scale of the destruction in Yarmouk compares to very little else that I have seen in many years of humanitarian work in conflict zones," Krahenbuhl said.
"It's clear that for Palestine refugees the big question... is the prospect of return to Yarmouk," he added.
The Syria war began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to 2011 peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms.
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.
The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.