Special Reports  ::   A Special Report on the Siege of Yarmouk Camp in Damascus and Mo'adamieh City in Damascus Suburbs

A Special Report on the Siege of Yarmouk Camp

in Damascus and Mo'adamieh City in Damascus Suburbs

Forgotten under siege

Violation Documentation Center in Syria

September 2013



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     The word “siege” may not mean much if it wasn’t accompanied by detailed descriptions of the tens of thousands of everyday reality of women, children and elderly in number of the liberated areas, where the crumbs of food became a dream, and children were afflicted by malnutrition, eventually, some of them died due to the lack of food and medicine. Yarmouk camp in Damascus and Mo’adamieh city in Damascus suburbs both are examples of the brutal siege imposed by regime on the rebellious areas, in addition to the everyday shelling as a collective punishment for the people of the rebellious areas.


  • An image showing the destruction caused by the regime's forces shelling on one of Yarmouk Camp streets in Damascus.


First: Yarmouk Camp - Damascus

Before the beginning:

      We have begun the preparation of  this report based on the testimonies of  some activists in Yarmouk Camp, including the activist Ahmad Alsahli (abu laith), who was born in 1992, a palestinian. He was one of the inhabitants of  Yarmouk Camp and an activist in Sawa’ed Group . He was also a member of the administrative body in Watad Center for Training and Devalopment, and a member of  the United Information Office in Yarmouk Camp.

     Before the report was finished, we have been informed by the martyrdom of the activist abu laith as a result of a surface-to-surface missile bombardment. Violation and Documentation Center in Syria send their deep condolence to the martyre family and the loved ones and dedicate this report ,which most of it is based on the testimony of the mrtyre's, to the martyre Abu Laith and to those who preceeded him.


A Picture of the martyr Abu Laith Alsahli



     Palestinians in Syria distributed  on many camps across the country. The total number of them reach more than half a million people, one third live in Yarmouk Camp in Damascus, where they form more than a third of the the population include Syrians as well. The Camp has a population of more than one million people in a geographical area that does not exceed 1km1 .

     The siege on Yarmouk Camp begun on 26/12/2012, or after what’s known as “MiG raid”. The regime's MiG targeted many places that were sheltering dozens of refugees. Since then, the camp has been living under unbelievable  circumstances due to the wide blockade which caused the loss of most food and medical supplies from the region with the continued daily shelling.



  • Yarmouk Camp Revolts:

     Since the early months, Yarmouk Camp participated in the Syrian revolution. The first demonstration came out on 6-6-2011, as Abu Laith, who worked as a computer engineer assistant then got engaged in relief and media activity in the Camp, and who was also a member of the Unified  Media Office in the Yarmouk Camp confirmed:

Abu Laith added:

     On 5-6-2011 when the residents of  the Camp bid their martyrs farewell, after  more than 30 Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli border guards, the forces of the Syrian regime opened direct fire on them on the next day, causing the death of more than 20 people on what was known later as “Al Khalsa Massacre”. It is the headquarter belonging to the People's Front General Command led by "Ahmed Jibril," as the Syrian army troops stationed in it that day, and committed the massacre against the people of the camp,

Abu Laith added:

    After that, thingg went on in the Camp as well as in Tadamon and ALhajar AL’aswad, when arming what’s called the “popular committees”, which were created by the Popular Front began.

  • Before The seige of Yarmouk Camp:

     The siege of the Camp began-as confirmed by the media activist Ahmad Al-Sahli,"Abu Laith " -on 12/26/2012 after the so-called the day of "MiG raid" when the forces of the Syrian regime bombed several civilian sites in Yarmouk Camp for the first time with MiG military aircraft, resulting in scores of dead and injured, as the shelling targeted several shelters for the displaced, including:


     Abdul Qader Alhousaini mosque and AlFallouja School in the street of the schools. Most of the martyrs were from the displaced of Tadamon and AlHajar Alaswad who escaped their homes due to the shelling by regime forces. Rumors followed successively after that strike, especially when members of the Free Syrian Army entered the Camp. This led to the displacement of tens of thousands of the camp residents to the outside. The number of those who were displaced that day was more than 400 thousand people, as Abu Laith estimated. Most of them were displaced from other areas, in addition to a few number of the camp's citizens.

      The regime tightens its grip and shelled the center of the Camp, and then started to deploy barriers along the roads leading to the camp. They also prevented any relief or medical materials to reach the camp.


* An image taken by an activist showing the damage of one of the houses due to the regime's forces shelling.


The actual siege of Yarmouk Camp:-

     It was not a long period between the beginning of the siege of Yarmouk Camp and the actual actions to punish the people of the city by the regime's forces. After 26/12/2012, the regime's army began tightening the grip on all entrances to Yarmouk Camp, especially after hundreds of thousands of citizens were displaced, not only Palestinians, but also tens of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis fled the camp after the spread of rumors of impending raids by the regime's forces and the militiamen of the "popular committees" of the Popular Front - Ahmed Jibril.


1-Systematic Starvation: Preventing Food Supplies:

     In this context, the activist, "Abu Laith" said: "After that date, the regime forces prevented anything into the Camp, but the Camp's residents were not directly affected by that as there was enough flour, for example, and many other foodstuffs. The military checkpoint of the army prevented the people from taking in more than one "dozen" of bread for there was a list of a lot of the wanted names whom had originally remained in the Camp and had not fled. Thus, taking in bread was limited to women and elderly men only. A little time passed when even bred was forbidden at the beginning of February 2013 and only few essential items were allowed in small quantities, such as rice, sugar, and grain. As a result, prices have double folded within the Camp, and the humanitarian situation has severely degraded, which, later on, has become the major reason of humanitarian catastrophe the Camp is experiencing now. "                                                                         

     The media and relief activist Abdullah al-Khateeb, a member of the Yarmouk Camp Coordinating says, describing the humanitarian and relief situation in the Camp:

     The population was more than a million people, yet most of them fled the camp. For example, in December 2012, after what was called the day of "MiG Raid", more than half a million residents fled the camp, especially after receiving news about the intention of storming the camp by the regime's forces. The second displacement was in June 2013 when also tens of thousands of people fled.  The current population is between 35 and 40 thousand people.


 AlKhateeb, describing the beginning of the human suffering that swept through the camp, adds:

     The siege went through several stages. First, the barrier of the Syrian regime, which was placed at the end of January 2012, was a little "strict", and then the siege became stricter.  After about two months of the placement of the first military checkpoint and after it became completely under the control of the militiamen of the People's Committees of Ahmed Jibril, the besiege in the Camp increased as it became prevented to take in any foodstuffs but in very small amounts, for example, no more than one dozen of bread and a half kilo of vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers or onions) were allowed per family. two months ago i.e. since the beginning of July 2013, specifically on 5th of Ramadan, the southern region was fully closed along with all the entrances of the other southern regions, namely: Babila,Yalda, Hajeera, Qadam, Asali, Tadamon, Hajar Aswad, Boaida, Husseiniyeh Camp and Yarmouk Camp itself.

     The southern region has no food now, as it, originally, does not produce food and is not famous for agriculture; it only grows "squash and mallow" that have been fully run out due to the high demand on them in the absence of other food. Moreover, some Fatwa (legal opinion) have been issued to allow opening the closed houses, whose owners have escaped the bombing. That fatwa has only allowed the use of food "supplies" that remained in the houses after the displacement of the owners.

   The Citizens have reduced their meals to one meal a day due to the lack of food, and as there has been no flour,many of the citizens tended to make bread out of bulger or lentile.

Abdullah adds:

     During the last month, more than 20 cases of dehydration,malnutrition and malabsorption have been recorded, mostly women and children due to the lack of food, espcially after milk has been completely run out. During the few coming days, the Camp is facing a humaniterian disaster and it will be considered an afflicted area unless some food gets into it.

     Other services, such as electricity, has been cut off for more than six months now. The citizens who are still there, along with the hospitals, are still relying on generators that consume a lot of fuel, most of which has been run out, while the rest will be run out during the next few days as well.

  2-A Systematic Destruction Under Suffocating Siege:

The media activist "Abu Ja'far" says about the suffocating siege and the mass destruction Yarmouk Camp experienced:

     Yarmouk Camp has been under siege for nearly eight months by the regime's forces first and the militiamen of the Popular Front, led by Ahmed Jibril secondly, as they shut down all the entrances and exits of the Yarmouk Camp, and during the last two months, the entry of any kind of food or flour or even essential life materials was prevented. This suffering was accompanied with a systematic bombing by the regime's forces for they followed a policy of destroying the camp, especially by using a special type of blazing rockets.  Usually the missiles destroyed the house, for example, without burning them while the shells that have been used recently caused destruction in addition to burning complete houses too. 55 houses have been targeted by the regime's forces, yet in Yarmouk Camp we have noticed that they are targeting the mosques intentionally and systematically, as several well-known mosques have been targeted, some of them were completely destroyed, others were partially damaged. Some of the mosques are:

Abdul Qader Al-Husseini  Mosque, AlKhalil Mosque, Safadi Mosque, Alquds Mosque, Saladin Mosque, AlHabeeb AlMustafa Mosque, AlWasim Mosque

In the same context Abdullah AlKhateeb says:

     The first mass grave was witnessed in Yarmouk Camp during the MIG raid when 16 people were killed, most of which have not been recognized due to their disfiguration especially that many of them were not residents of the Camp but displaced from neighboring regions such as Hajar Aswad and Tadamon.


     The MIG warplanes was the first weapon the regime used in the Camp, afterwards the regime started using various kinds of weapons such as the mortar shelling which is one of the most weapons used against the Camp and its inhabitants, as the Camp was randomly shelled for several days. Every day, mortar shelling killed more than 200 people, most of which were civilians, compared with the number of dead from the Free Army. The regime forces also used "Grad" rockets more than five times, one of which was near Hamdan Bakery.


     Among the weapons that the regime and is still using are 2.10 cm homemade rockets named "missiles 122" that are carried on the shoulder and fired from high buildings overlooking the Camp with their accurate direct targeting..

     Cannons and Gvozdika artillery were also among the weapons that the regime's forces have been targeting the Camp with causing mass destruction, especially in the infrastructure that has been 20% destroyed added to the complete destruction of more than 20% of the houses, which means that 40% of Yarmouk Camp has been devastated. Moreover, about 190 houses are being directly targeted on a daily basis by the regime's forces, especially in the recent days when they started to use a new weapon that carries incendiary heads. Once, the rocket did not explode; it was consisting of highly destructive liquid substances that can burn a full house after destroying it.


3- Preventing drugs and medical supplies:

     The siege on medicine in Yarmouk Camp is one of the toughest imposed besieges among 'rebellious districts'; especially by preventing doctors from entering the Camp as many of them were arrested by barriers nearby. Many of these doctors were exposed to torture and killing on the hands of security forces at these barriers; one of them is Dr. Firas Abdulrazzaq Al Jild, 30 years old, from Aqraba, of Damascus Suburbs......                                                                            

      In this context, the paramedic Majd Othman, who has lived under the siege from the beginning, says:  Before the 'Mig Raid' there were tens of doctors of all specializations, in addition to tens of nurses and paramedics. After the 'Mig Raid', however, most of them went away leaving only a 'surgeon' and 11 paramedics sill in their first training stages. Medical cadres of Palestine Hospital, Red Crescent and Al Basil Hospital (which was directly affected by the Raid) have all left. The 'medical condition' reached its worst level on 10 Jan 2013 as the only surgeon left to do his midterm exams. The camp was left with no doctor until the beginning of March 2013, when an 'intern doctor', a student in Surgery Medicine came to the camp and the number of paramedics increased a little. They weren't, however, as experienced as nurses.

Regarding medical siege, field paramedic Majd Othman adds :

     After 17 Dec 2012, the regime prevented any kind of medicine. The ' salty serum ' in the Camp reached the price of 20,000 SP, even the 'Cetamol' pills are prevented and that who tries to take in any medicine will be arrested like Dr. Alaa Aldeen Yousif , a 60 years old Palestinian surgeon

Who was arrested at the barrier at the Camp's entrance.

     Not only is the fear of detention that prevents the doctors from entering the Camp, but also the arbitrary shelling that was also a reason behind killing many doctors and paramedics; among of which was Dr. Ahmed Nawaf Al Hassan, Palestinian, a Surgeon, 23 years old from 'Emigrants Camp' in the city of Daraa who was killed during a shelling on the Camp on 17 Jun 2012:




 صورة للطبيب الشهيد: أحمد نواف الحسن، قبل الاستشهاد وبعده.

 An image of Ahmad Nawwaf al-Hasan  

     This acute lack of medical supplies was the reason behind many death cases among casualties and patients; they could've been rescued were the needed supplies available.

Majd adds:

     Many casualties died as their conditions got worse and worse due to the lack of medical supplies,

        In one case, a defected soldier was injured in his leg and as there was no way to carry out an operation for him, his health deteriorated as his wound started to develop  an acute inflammation and the paramedics had to cut his leg lest he gets gregarine that might spread all over his body. Medical points in the Camp don't even have sanitizers.                                                                    

Paramedic Bashar Ahmed, Yarmok Medical Office Coordinator, in an interview conducted by VDC, says;

     The medical situation in the Camp was very bad even before the 'Raid' or the siege. With the beginning of the siege and the shelling, however, it exceptionally deteriorated especially after targeting main hospitals like 'Palestine Hospital', 'Al Basil Hospital' and 'Fayiz Halawa Hospital' the one that was shelled for about four times, the last of which was at the beginning of Sep 2013, the shelling that destroyed it completely.                                                                                          

In regard to the shortness of medical cadres, Bashar Adds:

     Currently there is only one doctor, an undergraduate medical student, and one hospital which is 'Palestinian Hospital'. Detention and migration of doctors were among the reasons behind the lack of medical cadres. Security forces have detained all those who tried to take in any medical supplies or apparatus. They also arrested the doctors who tried to enter the camp among them Dr. Alaa Aldeen Yousif, Dr. Hail Hamid, and Dr. Nizar Jawdat Kassab in addition to many field paramedics and nurses like paramedics Mouhamad Najm and Husam Mauid who was arrested

along with nurse Salma Abdulrazaq 21 years old, and the paramedic Abdulrahman Salameh, nurse anesthetist who was arrested on 1 Sep 2013.                                                                           

       Medical supplies and apparatus especially first aids are barely available, for example there is only one ambulance that is not equipped with medical apparatus; it is a Van car with a bed inside. The only remaining hospital is in urgent need for medical apparatus and supplies like bandages, plasters and blood bags.

     We reached a point where we transferred blood, instantly, from one patient to another without doing the needed tests which might cause blood coagulation using big 60 C syringes.

    Palestinian Hospital contains one poorly-sanitised critical care unit and one operation room. Lately, and due to the lack of 'Formole' sanitizer, a new kind of germs (blue Bacillus) has spread and killed four patients..


     In addition to the lack of medical apparatus, essential and non-essential drugs, 'povidone' and alcohol, used for sanitising wounds, are barely available. We are about to run out of inflammation and anti-biotic drugs in addition to tranquilizers, anti-edema and antipyretics. For afterbirth cases, we are facing a lack of 'salt serums' and vitamins.

     There is, also, an important issue about ' great bone breaking' as we don't have an orthopaedic doctor and there is no x-ray center and no materials for splinting the breakings. 100 patients have not recovered as there was no orthopaedic doctor or materials, especially those materials needed in the cases of smashed bones.                                                                                                          

     When UNRWA cadres left the camp, tens of patients with chronic diseases like Anemia, Thalassemia, diabetes and heart diseases found themselves fighting death. Lately mothers couldn't produce any milk as they suffer Anemia too; in the recent day, Palestinian Hospital received like 20 cases like these. 



Second: Mo'adamieh – Damascus Suburbs

Violent Shelling and a Fatal Besiege

     Mo'adamieh is a city in the countryside of Damascus, about 4km to the west of the capital city. Military speaking, it lies in the middle of several Syrian regime- related military points. To the east, it’s bordered with Hay El Mashrou`a (the project neighborhood), inhabited mostly by Air Force Intelligence officers with their families. To the south, it’s bordered with Darayyah, which is also an afflicted and besieged city. The geographical location of the city enabled the regime forces to impose a strict siege around it. To the north, it is bordered with Mo'adamieh Mountains in which the Fourth Brigade, Sumarieh residences, and the police lodgings exist. To the west, it’s bordered with Youssef al- Admeh residences, Saraya Elsera (military brigades), and the orchards of Jdiedeh.                                                                                                                    


Amir, a relief activist inside the city says:

       “Mo'adamieh was one of the first cities to respond to the call for peaceful demonstrations; and despite the detention raids and the fall of too many martyrs, the city did not stop the revolutionary activity. Having an effective role in the 'Dignity' revolution pushed the regime to commit many crimes and massacres against its civilians. The latest of which was the 'Chemical Massacre' on 21 August 2013.

      The city is under constant violent shelling by regime forces. It is being shelled from the ‘Mezzeh Military Airport’, Mo'adamieh Mountains, the Regiment 100, and ‘Kawakeb Hill’ which is located between Mo'adamieh and Judiedeh. Lately, it was shelled by surface- to- surface missiles, which caused tremendous destruction to its infrastructure.                                              



Siege to Starve to Death:

      Ameer, a relief activist, says that the siege imposed on Moa’damiya constitutes one of the most brutal of the regime crimes in addition to its continued bombardment of the city. Ameer adds: “In May 2012, regime forces installed military checkpoints at theoutlets of the city. They crippled the movement of civilians leavingthe city and sometimes blocked it completely. We used to find bodies of civilians on a daily basis thrown on the Damascus-Quneitra highway locally known as the fortieth highway or Death Road. Those bodies were for those who were arrested and executed haphazardly by troops manning
these checkpoints.”

 The tight siege started on 25 November 2012 in the wake of Darayya’s battle. This was when the city’s tragedy started to unfold. Regime troops tried to build sand barricades along the western side of the city near the orchards in order to prevent civilians from going outside the city to get their needs and ensure they are completely besieged. The city is now home to around 5,000 households, that is around 12,000 people including children, women and elderly although
the actual population used to be between 30,000 and 32,000.

Ameer continues:

     “Mouadamiya is an agricultural area which depends on its production of fruit trees and olive trees. When the siege started, the locals started to use their stored food supplies up till early March 2013 which can be considered the real start of the siege as the locals ran out of food supplies. So some of them planted the remaining seeds in the vicinity of their houses in hope they would secure some food stuff but water shortage prevented those small crops from growing.”

      “Water shortage is attributed to a number of reasons including the fact that the regime blocked water supply to the city in addition to the Vozdika shells destroyed many water tanks on rooftops despite attempts of residents to relocate those tanks to lower floors for protection. The city ran out of water supply especially that the regime also targeted public reservoirs and the water unit in the cityrecently.” Explaining ways of securing food supplies for the residents and
children, Ameer says:

      “As time went by, we had nothing left but tree leaves as a source of food –no exaggeration here. For there was no flour, no bread, nothing edible not even milk, the only food source for infants. Mothers found it hard to breastfeed their infants because they suffered malnutrition themselves. This is a real tragedy, to watch children who may lose their lives before our eyes out of starvation. Two children actually lost their lives for that reason: Ibrahim Khaleel and Ammar Arafeh. Wehave been without bread or food for 260 days so far.”

*Footage of child martyr Ibrahim Khaleel



     Power supply, which is also a basic living requirement, was interrupted completely since November 2012. The city has since been completely dependant on generators which are run by fuel which is also running out particularly that the only source of fuel has been the stock which residents keep for their households.

-       Footage of the child martyr Ammar Arafeh



Ameer further described the medical situation:

     “There is only one makeshift hospital which treats people injured due to the fierce and continued shelling. There are women and children in the hospital now. Their shrapnel wounds have been treated but malnutrition has hindered full recovery in addition to the extreme shortage of medications including painkillers, antibiotics and other medical and relief requirements. The situation is so dire that recently we had to cut shrouds into small pieces to be used instead of

     Doctors of the city have offered first aid training for volunteers but unfortunately there is nothing they can use to help those who are wounded and suffer malnutrition.

End of Testimony

To conclude,

      The Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC) calls on the ICRC to urgently take action to break the siege imposed on Yarmouk Camp, Moa’adamiya and other besieged areas such as al-Hajjar al-Asswad and Eastern Ghouta. The humanitarian crises in those areas have reached catastrophic levels due to food and medication shortages.


      1 according to the latest statistics of the united nations relief and works agency for Palestine refugees in the near east, 420,000 Palestinian refugees are affected and need urgent assistance as a result of the conflict in Syria. In addition to 80,000 Palestinian who fled from Syria to Lebanon, and 10,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria to Jordan, in addition to the 1,350 Palestinian refugees from Syria to Gaza strip. Therefore, the number of people who need urgent assistance is mounting to the total number of Palestinian refugees in Syria, which numbered 529.000 refugees, according to the latest update issued as a report titled regional plan for Syria crisis until July 2013.

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