Syria's Palestinians sleep rough in wintry Damascus
By Oliver Holmes
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The amber light of the street lamp illuminates the boy, wrapped in a thin blanket, his legs exposed to the December cold as he sleeps by a kerbside in a wealthy district of Damascus.
The child - barely in his teens, if that - was said by the opposition activist who posted his photograph on the Internet to be from Yarmouk, a Palestinian district near the city centre which has become the latest battlefield for rebels and a target for President Bashar al-Assad's artillery.
Syria hosts half a million Palestinians, refugees who fled at the creation of Israel in 1948 and their descendants. Most are housed in the densely-built apartment blocks of Yarmouk.
As rebels took the area late on Monday evening, retaliatory strikes from government forces came hard and fast. Fleeing residents said they ran, many on foot, as high-explosive and hot metal destroyed their homes.
Several thousand jumped into taxis and buses and fled for the Lebanese border, 50 km (30 miles) away. Others had friends and families who could offer support. But after 21 months of conflict, many were out of money and out of options.
Residents of Damascus speak of hundreds of families stumbling into the wide boulevards of hitherto affluent central Damascus, looking dazed as they sit in parks and on pavements.
One woman who lives there told Reuters the Palestinians appeared to be in disbelief at their own fate: "I was trying to get a taxi when I saw a dazed old man on the pavement," she said, asking not to be named for fear of official retribution.
The man, well dressed in a blue jacket, was trying to cover himself in newspapers to protect his body from the cold: "He couldn't get his legs covered because he didn't have enough newspapers. He wrapped his hands around his head to keep warm." Continued...