RAMALLAH – The number of Palestinians confirmed killed in Syria during the ongoing civil conflict has reached around 1,200-1,300, while an equal number are considered missing, the Palestinian Embassy in Syria announced Thursday.
The statistics reveal the devastating impact the war has had on Palestinian life in Syria, which previously was considered one of the most integrated and receptive host countries for those expelled from their homes in what became Israel in 1948.
The Palestinian Embassy in Syria said that 2,200 Palestinians, meanwhile, are being held as prisoners in Syrian regime jails, though only a small percentage of those were jailed for involvement in the uprising and conflict.
The head of the Palestine Liberation Organization delegation to Syria Ahmad Majdalani said that the numbers of people killed since 2011 are still not exact, however, with low estimates around 1,000.
The Palestinian Embassy in Lebanon gives a figure of around 1,300, meanwhile, which is on the high end of the spectrum, he added.
When combined with the number missing, which is thought to be roughly equivalent to those killed, the total numbers of those killed or missing reach around 2,500.
Majdalani pointed out that during the initial stages of the “crisis,” Palestinians in Syria remain relatively uninvolved. However, the turning point was when armed groups moved into Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, directly involving the camp in the war.
Their appearance in the camp, in turn, led to a siege by pro-regime forces and armed conflict, he added, which continues to consume the camp and has led to hundreds of deaths, many from starvation.
After months of siege and blockade, the camp eventually stopped being a major theater of war in the conflict and deaths have fallen sharply there since the beginning of the year.
But the decline in deaths also reflects the mass flight of Palestinians from Syria, and the fact that they have found themselves refugees yet again.
Majdalani said that the PLO had managed to transfer thousands of Palestinian to three main camps in the wake of the destruction of several refugee camps.
The more dire reality, he warned, is that many people have began fleeing the region by boat, leading to many drownings.
Palestinians from Syria have represented a high proportion of the thousands of people who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe so far this year, joining nationals of many Sub-Saharan African states as well as Palestinians from Gaza in the deadly exodus.
The Syrian conflict, which began as peaceful protests in March 2011 but developed into a civil war, has killed more than 200,000 people and prompted millions to flee their homes.
Prior to the conflict, up to 600,000 Palestinian refugees lived in Syria, though the UN’s Palestine refugee agency UNRWA estimates that more than half have been forced to leave their homes in Syria due to violence in the country.
Between 7-800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the State of Israel, and today their descendants number around five million, spread across the world.
About 100,000 of the Palestinian refugees in Syria, meanwhile, are descendants of Palestinians who fled in 1948 but were forced out of their homes again in the ethnic cleansing of the Golan Heights by Israel in 1967.
A smaller number fled the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and took up residence in Syria. (Ma’an)