Fire at infamous displacement camp in northern Syria leaves 4 dead; murders continue

Families walk within northeastern Syria's sprawling al-Hol displacement camp. (Photo: Archive)
Families walk within northeastern Syria's sprawling al-Hol displacement camp. (Photo: Archive)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – At least four people have so far died and 18 injured after a gas stove exploded in northern Syria’s sprawling al-Hol displacement camp, as reported by local media and a Syrian pro-government news agency.

After the explosion, which caused a number of tents to catch fire in the camp, multiple victims of the incident were transported to hospitals in the nearby city of Hasakah for treatment.

The local North Press Agency (NPA) also reported that three were killed and at least 36 were injured.

According to the United Nations, al-Hol is the largest camp for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Syria, with around 62,000 current residents.

Tens of thousands of those held at the camp are foreign females affiliated to the Islamic State and their children, the vast majority being Iraqi and Syrian nationals. As a result of the vast numbers, it has been difficult for guards to prevent repeated incidents, including murders, within the camp. 

Local authorities decided in early October to expedite and increase the departure of displaced Syrian families as part of a new reform program.

Local Kurdish-led authorities in northern Syria have strongly and repeatedly urged foreign states to take back their nationals who fought for the terrorist organization, including women and their children.

Plans announced in the past to repatriate the thousands of displaced Iraqis now in al-Hol appear to have been either delayed or annulled outright by Iraqi authorities.

The camp, administered by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has recently seen an increase in assassinations and other violent attacks.

At least 20 people were killed there in January, according to the latest data from the Syria-based Rojava Information Center.

Read More: 20 people killed in northeastern Syria’s al-Hol camp in January: RIC report

Scores of displaced Iraqis and Syrians have been targeted in the camp by other residents loyal to the Islamic State for alleged collaboration with local SDF fighters, Kurdish Internal Security forces (Asayish), or camp administration.

The SDF’s Coordination and Military Operations Centre wrote on Friday in a tweet that a 49-year old Syrian woman was shot in the head by “unknown assailants” using a firearm fitted with a silencer.

According to Caki Akyuz, an open-source researcher on Syria, it was the eighth such killing in al-Hol over the past month.

“There needs to be an international solution to al-Hol camp soon, otherwise this chaos is going to boil over,” he told Kurdistan 24.

“It’s not acceptable that Western countries do not take back their citizens and leave the administration stuck with this problem, who already have enough troubles with local Syrians and Iraqis in the al-Hol camp, and increased killings in the Iraqi and Syrian sections.”

Editing by John J. Catherine