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12 dead in Syria’s Al-Hawl camp as refugee numbers exceed 72,000

Syrians line up for water at Al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria on 29 January 2017 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]
Refugees line up for water at Al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria on 29 January 2017 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]

At least 12 refugees have died in Al-Hawl refugee camp, now home to some 72,000 people, as the humanitarian situation in the camps worsens, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said yesterday.

“Last night, another 2,000 women and children arrived at Al-Hol [Al-Hawl] camp in northeast Syria from Al-Baghouz. Up to 60 arrivals needed immediate hospitalisation and there were another 12 deaths recorded,” the group said in a statement.

“There have now been at least 138 deaths on the way to Al-Hol or soon after arriving at the camp since early December. The deaths have overwhelmingly been of babies and infants.”

Footage from the camp has shown thousands of new arrivals forced to sleep in the open, despite the bitter cold. Many have sustained severe injuries from the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) battle against militants in the tent-city of Al-Baghouz, the last sliver of Daesh territory.

Aid agencies have said they are struggling to provide medical care and shelter for the new arrivals, while water supplies were being stretched thin in the camp. Earlier this month charities said that more than 400 children were being treated for moderate acute malnutrition in the camp.

These women and children are in the worst condition we have seen since the crisis first began. Many have been caught up in the fighting and dozens have been burnt or badly injured by shrapnel

Wendy Taeuber, IRC’s Iraq and northeast Syria country director, said.

READ: 28 killed in Syria by Daesh landmines, US bombings

The statement comes following unconfirmed reports that several refugees were killed after protests erupted in the camp at the rising civilian death toll in Al-Baghouz. SDF troops reportedly dispersed demonstrators with live fire, according to local sources, although casualty numbers cannot be confirmed.

Having made significant ground this week, US-backed Kurdish militias that make up the SDF are preparing to declare victory over Daesh once they have ensured the area is fully secure.

“Our forces are still conducting combing and search operations and as soon as they are finished we will announce the liberation,” Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, said according to Reuters.

Statistics released yesterday by the Syrian Network for Human Rights allege that more than 3,000 civilians, including 964 children, have been killed by the US-led coalition since the campaign against Daesh began in 2014; two thirds of the deaths occurred during the term of President Donald Trump.

The report also documented “at least 172 attacks on vital civilian facilities, including 25 attacks on schools, 16 attacks on medical facilities, and four attacks on markets”. Some 560,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the campaign.

READ: UN says 2018 deadliest year yet for Syrian children

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