Injured Syrian fighters seek respite in Jordan

Had Abu Ahmed not made the risky trip across the border with Jordan, he believes he would have bled to death.

December 22, 2012 19:59
EU Commissioner  visits Syria refugees in Amman

EU Commissioner visits Syria refugees in Amman 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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 ZATAARI REFUGEE CAMP Abu Ahmed arrived in this refugee camp just over the Jordanian border after walking over 50 miles. He is haggard after two sleepless nights, and suffering chest pain for a wound he received while fighting with the Syrian rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

 "I came close to dying twice,” he whispers to The Media Line, clearly almost out of strength. “The first time was during a battle when the army ambushed us in farmland in Etseel (west Deraa). The second time was when the army bombed the field hospital where I was receiving treatment."

The 34 year old former schoolteacher is one of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of injured Syrians who came to Jordan seeking treatment from wounds sustained in fighting in the border town of Deraa. Like most refugees, he asked to use only his first name, fearing for relatives still in Syria.

Had Abu Ahmed not made the risky trip across the border with Jordan, he believes he would have bled to death.

"You could die from a simple wound. Field hospitals are difficult to access and medical supplies are rare," he told the Media Line while lying on a cot at a clinic in Zataari camp, where there are already 40,000 Syrian refugees. After his wound was dressed, the short, husky man left the clinic and went to his tent for some much-needed sleep.

He said that the field hospital in Syria where he was first treated was set up in an orchard, protected by branches and hidden under a tree.

Abu Ahmed is among the lucky ones to be treated by a veterinarian, joked an injured civilian.

"Some people were treated by midwives, medical students or even people without any training," Abu Yasmin told The Media Line. "It is no longer safe to set up field clinics in homes. The fighters are erecting field hospitals in dungeons, caves underground or in orchards.”

Activists said larger numbers of refugees have been crossing to Jordan than ever, amid fears of an exodus of entire towns as the level of violence skyrockets.

In a single night last week, at least 20 civilians and rebels crossed from the north western border of Deraa near Yarmouk Rive to Ramtha, including women and children, said medical sources.

 Activists said the Syrian army has recently intensified its shelling on a number of towns in the southern province, including Etseel, Hafna, Heit, Abdeen and Shajara on the western edge of Deraa, near the border with Jordan.

Crossing into Jordan is a risky business as Syrian troops often open fire on refugees.

During the past two months, several refugees were reported killed near the border by Syrian troops.

Meanwhile, Jordan has adopted an open border policy to accommodate the increasing number of refugees. A Jordanian military source said the army often shoots back at Syrian troops to provide cover for Syrian refugees who want to enter Jordan. He admitted their efforts do not always work.

"In one month, at least four refugees were killed while trying to cross, including one child," the source told the Media Line.

Government spokesman Sameeh Mayta said authorities in Amman will continue carrying out their humanitarian duty to receive and protect refugees, but warned that the cash-strapped kingdom needs international aid. Mayta pointed to continuous efforts with the major international bodies to improve service to refugees.

There are today an estimated 150,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, about 38,000 in Zaatari refugee camp. Jordanian officials say they are  planning to open a new refugee camp in Zarqa to accommodate more refugees who are expected to flee to the kingdom as the war rages non-stop.

Recent arrivals say they bring little with them, except their said stories.

 Rami Hassan, 45-year-old farmer from Deraa city, said dozens of families were left stranded during shelling and vulnerable to indiscriminate army raids.

 "Any man in Deraa is subject to being arrested, or even killed, on the spot. The Syrian army is going mad, thinking all civilians carry guns to shoot at them," said Hassan, who arrived in Jordan with his injured young sister last month.

 Hassan said he carried his sister on his shoulders for 10 hours to take her across the border.

"She was injured in her leg and we put cloths as bandages to stop the bleeding, but had she not received treatment, her leg would have been amputated," Hassan told the Media Line. "Horror is everywhere. People do not know where to run anymore. There is shelling everywhere.”


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