Palestinian refugees displaced in Syria to finally return home to Yarmouk

Khaled Abdul Majid, the Syria-based leader of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, told Al-Monitor that 100,000 people are expected to return to their houses that suffered minimal damage.

Soldiers walk past damaged buildings in Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus (photo credit: OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS)
Soldiers walk past damaged buildings in Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus
(photo credit: OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS)
Thousands of Palestinian refugees from the Yarmouk Camp in southern Syria, who were displaced during the country's civil war, are reportedly about to return to their residences, Samir Jazaerly, an administrative official in the Damascus governorate told the Syrian Al-Watan newspaper on October 5.
Jazaerly set out conditions for those who want to return: The houses they are returning to must be safe or require only minor renovations, and whoever wants to return must first prove ownership of the property and obtain approvals from the security authorities.
Yarmouk, one of Syria's largest refugee camps, was once home to over 200,000 people, but was gutted and reduced to rubble when the war began displacing residents in December of 2013.
Many of the Palestinians who once lived there have fled, but estimates noted that around 400 families still remained.
Khaled Abdul Majid, the Syria-based leader of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, told Al-Monitor that 100,000 people are expected to return to the houses that suffered minimal damage.
In May of 2018, Assad's regime retook the camp from Islamic State forces after a three-year long occupation, and in November of 2018, the Assad regime announced it would be renovating the camp's infrastructure to allow its residents to return.
Hussein Chahabi – a Palestinian doctor who works for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and currently lives in Dahiyat al-Assad suburb in south Syria – expressed joy at the prospect of returning home to Yarmouk in south Damascus.
“I am excited to return to the camp and renovate my house. I have high hopes for an imminent return home to Felasteen [Palestine] Street [in the camp],” he told Al-Monitor.
However, the conditions set out by Damascus have not allowed for all the camp's residents to return. A man named Ayham Hamada told Al-Monitor that “returning is limited to the inhabitants whose houses are safe or can be renovated. My house is totally destroyed, a pile of ruins. Still, I am happy that others are returning to their houses, because that will alleviate their financial strain.
“All inhabitants support the return to the camp, but this requires provision of infrastructure and basic services. If these are provided, all inhabitants will support a quick return,” he added.
Political director of the Palestine Liberation Organization Anwar Abdul Hadi told Al-Monitor that, "in the past few years, the camp inhabitants have been eager to renovate their houses and return to them, since they were paying high rents in the houses they were living in.
He praised the decision of the Syrian authorities and said that its motivation is political, as the camp represents the Palestinian cause and Palestinians' right of return as the region undergoes rapid changes, such as increasing normalization with Israel.
Abdul Hadi also added that economic sanctions and a tight siege have delayed the renovation plans, as they include a ban on construction materials.