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One Syrian killed in refugee camp riots

By Elisa Oddone - Apr 07,2014 - Last updated at Apr 07,2014

AMMAN — One Syrian refugee died on Sunday morning following turmoil that erupted in Jordan’s Zaatari camp on Saturday when hundreds of Syrians clashed with security forces, Jordanian authorities said.

According to officials, the clash erupted after Jordanian police stopped three families illegally attempting to flee Zaatari through a breach in the camp’s southern border fence and three other unidentified people trying to sneak in carrying “several types of goods”.

“Police stopped the three who started shouting and calling for help, gathering around 200 Syrians who began throwing rocks at the authorities’ cars and personnel,” Director of the Syrian Refugees Affairs Directorate Brig. Gen. Wadah Hmoud told The Jordan Times over the phone.

“The number of protesters swiftly increased to around 5,000,” he added.

The agitators torched tents and caravans throwing Molotov cocktails and blowing up several gas cylinders, according to authorities, who added gunshots were heard in the rioting.

Police have launched an investigation into the incident, officials said.

“Clashes raged for several hours starting [Saturday] afternoon and going through 9pm. Twenty-nine Gendarmes and three Syrian refugees were hospitalised. One Syrian died this morning from a gunshot wound and five Gendarmes are still in hospital,” Hmoud said.

The official said anti-riot police made no use of firearms but only tear gas to disperse stone-throwing refugees, adding that the shot came from one of the protesters.

Residents inside the camp told The Jordan Times that the situation returned to normal on Sunday but the death toll might be higher among the refugees.

“Rioting between police and residents started after three Syrian girls who work in nearby villages were prevented by police from illegally entering the camp,” the source, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, said over the phone.

The clash was the first serious disturbance in the camp this year as residents used to protest their living conditions almost on a daily basis before humanitarian agencies boosted the camp’s infrastructure and services.

“This was an unusual situation given that the security situation in the camp has improved dramatically since July-August last year,” UNHCR Representative to Jordan Andrew Harper told The Jordan Times over the phone.

“We have often had security incidents, problems with people wanting to go back to Syria or with services, but what we have seen in the last eight months, after investing a lot of resources in the camp, is that the living condition is much better than it was, leading to a dramatic decrease in the number of protests,” he added.

According to the UN official, the situation was back to normal in the camp on Sunday with agency’s staff returning to work.

The camp, some 80km northeast of Amman, has grown since its inception as a desert camp of 5,000 to the Kingdom’s fourth largest population centre with over 100,000 residents.

Jordan has so far given sanctuary to some 600,000 of the 2.5 million Syrians who fled their country since the onset of the conflict in March 2011, UN figures show, but unofficial figures suggest they could amount to one million.

Another 700,000 Syrians who do not hold the refugee status also live in the Kingdom, some of whom came before the crisis.

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