More than 30 people killed in Hol Camp since the beginning of the year
At least 31 people have been killed in the northeastern Syrian camp of Hol near Hesekê since the beginning of the year. The camp administration suspects ISIS sleeper cells. One of the victims was a local Doctors Without Borders team member.
More than 30 people have been killed in the northeastern Syrian camp of Hol since the beginning of the year. Six of the at least 31 victims in Syria's largest camp, home to displaced people, captured ISIS members and members of their families, were stabbed with sharp objects, while the others were shot dead. The camp administration suspects sleeper cells of the jihadist militia ISIS behind the killings. One fatality is a local Doctors Without Borders (MSF) team member who was murdered on the night of February 24. The aid organization has since suspended its work in the Hol Camp, including providing medical care in the tents and water and sanitation.
Victims mainly Iraqi and Syrian nationals
Most of the murder victims were Iraqis, but Syrian IDPs were also killed. In mid-January, an Iraqi refugee had even been beheaded in the Hol Camp. The camp, located to the east of the city of Hesekê, is currently home to more than 60,000 people from more than 50 different countries, including about 31,000 Iraqi nationals and another 22,000 Syrian nationals. Thousands of the residents are ISIS supporters or former members who were arrested by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the wake of the capture of the last ISIS bastion of Baghouz in early 2019. Around 93 percent of all people in the camp are women and children. However, a major problem is massive overcrowding. Conditions are disastrous due to the lack of aid from the international community, and medical care is abysmal. Only a few internees have so far been repatriated by their home countries.
UN: Situation in Hol one of the "most urgent problems in the world today"
The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria is overwhelmed in the face of masses, Turkish threats of attack and activities by ISIS sleeper militias, and has repeatedly appealed to countries of origin to take back their nationals.
The United Nations (UN) repeatedly warned that the security situation in the camp would deteriorate further. At the end of January, the UN had described the situation in Hol as “horrific”and called on the international community to at least assume its responsibility for the children and return them to their home countries. The 27,000 minors in the camp, many of them under the age of 12, remain "stranded and abandoned to their fate" vulnerable to exploitation by ISIS members and at risk of radicalization within the camp, said Vladimir Voronkov, head of the UN Office for Counterterrorism.
In early February, United Nations expert Fionnuala Ni Aolain called on states to repatriate their nationals held in camps in northeast Syria immediately. Ni Aolain was referring to ISIS mercenay's families held in Hol and Roj camps, run by Kurdish forces.
Ni Aolain said she had conveyed her demands in detailed letters to each concerned country, including Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Pakistan, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. "It is the first time that these 57 states have been named together," said Ni Aolain. "This isn't a club you want to belong to."
MSF: International community must take responsibility
MSF also calls on the international community, as well as the countries whose nationals are in Camp Hol, to take responsibility to find longer-term solutions for the people living there. A few days after the murder of the MSF team member, three aid workers were injured in a fire last Saturday. The fire had broken out in a tent where a wedding party was gathered after a child accidentally knocked over a diesel-powered heater. Two women and seven minors were killed in the fire, including the four-year-old daughter of an MSF staff member. Over twenty other people were injured.