Refugee camp erupts in bloody riot

A boy is pulled from a building in Aleppo demolished by barrel bombs.  Picture: Reuters
A boy is pulled from a building in Aleppo demolished by barrel bombs. Picture: Reuters
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JORDANIAN officials say bloody riots have erupted at the largest camp for Syrian refugees, leaving at least one refugee dead by gunshot and 31 people wounded.

Police said in a statement yesterday that they used tear gas to break up crowds who attacked the camps’ police stations and set fire to several tents to protest the arrest of compatriots who tried to sneak in a day earlier.

Meanwhile, in Syria, more than 20 people died when President Bashar al-Assad’s forces bombed the city of Aleppo.

Brigadier General Waddah Hmoud, director of Jordan’s Syrian refugee camps affairs department said a 25-year-old Syrian was killed in the violence and at least two other refugees were wounded.

Both sides blame each other for provoking the violence. The sprawling camp has seen several protests since opening two years ago, mainly over poor living conditions.

Zaatari is located in the Jordanian desert, about 7.5 miles from the Syrian border. It is the world’s second-largest refugee camp and has become the fourth largest “city” in Jordan.

Jordanian authorities said the violence broke out after police arrested a group of refugees who were trying to leave the camp illegally.

“The rioters burned six tents and two caravans and tried to attack police stations,” the Public Security Directorate said in a statement.

Residents of Zaatari, however, claimed the clashes occurred because a Jordanian policeman had run over a Syrian child.

Eyewitnesses also said the number of refugees injured in the unrest was much higher than the three cases confirmed by officials.

Brig Gen Hmoud said 29 police and gendarmerie officers had been taken to hospital with injuries.

“Unfortunately two of the Syrian refugees were injured by gunshot, one of them passed away this morning,” he added.

The United Nations said last night it was alarmed at the “violent nature” of the demonstration in the camp.

In a statement, the UN’s refugee agency said a “heated demonstration” in Zaatari turned to “a violent one” after refugees started throwing rocks at a police post inside the camp.

Opened in July 2012 with some 100 refugee families, Zaatari is now made up of roughly 30,000 shelters and administration buildings.

It costs about $500,000 (£320,000) a day to run, with half a million pieces of bread and 4.2 million litres of water distributed daily.

Life inside the camp can be harsh, as residents – mostly hailing from the Daraa governorate of Syria, face a number of challenges – the biggest being security.

An overflow camp – Azraq – is under construction in the desert to meet demand. It will have the capacity to host up to 130,000 people.

More than 2.5 million people have fled Syria since the civil war broke out there in March 2011.

Another activist who spoke via Skype from Aleppo, Mohammed Wissam, said crude explosives-filled barrels were dropped from helicopters onto the Misyar area of Aleppo, killing nearly two dozen people.