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Syrian refugee killed in clashes in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian refugees walk past the remains of their belongings, which were damaged during a clash between security forces and Syrian refugees, at the Zaatari refugee camp, April 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

Syrian refugees walk past the remains of their belongings, which were damaged during a clash between security forces and Syrian refugees, at the Zaatari refugee camp, April 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat—A Syrian refugee died from injuries sustained in disturbances at the Zaatari refugee Camp in northern Jordan on Saturday morning.

Jordanian authorities and camp residents exchanged accusations over who was responsible for the disturbances in the camp, which houses over 100,000 Syrian refugees.

The Jordanian security forces, meanwhile, have carried out a search operation for weapons after gunshots were heard in the area during the clashes.

Director of the Syrian refugee camps administration, Brig. Gen. Waddah Al-Hmoud, held a news conference in which he categorically denied the use of firearms by the police while dealing with the protests, which lasted five hours.

He said: “I heard a number of gunshots during the disturbances and the entire camp will be fully searched.” He added that no arms were found in the camp on Sunday.

Hmoud said 10 refugees were arrested on charges related to the disturbances and were being interrogated. He said those who were proven to have been involved would be referred to the judiciary. He added that calm was restored to the camp following the imposition of strict security measures.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a statement on Sunday which said: “The UNHCR is dismayed at the death of a Syrian refugee last night as a result of injuries sustained from a gunshot.”

According to the UN statement, clashes erupted on Saturday evening when Jordanian police carried out a routine inspection of a Jordanian car leaving the Zaatari camp.

When it transpired that the driver was attempting to smuggle a family out of the camp, police arrested the vehicle occupants, which angered the families of the refugees.

The statement added: “Hundreds, even thousands of refugees rushed to the police station and started to throw stones at the police officers.” Police called in reinforcements and dispersed the protesters using teargas.

A spokesman for the Zaatari camp administration, Ghazi Sarhan, told Asharq Al-Awsat that refugee Khalid Ali Al-Nimr was hit in the back by a bullet and was taken to hospital, where he died of his injuries. Another refugee remains in hospital receiving treatment for injuries caused by a bullet fired by an unknown person.

Sarhan said investigations were being carried out to discover who fired the gunshots—the Jordanian authorities denied firing bullets to disperse the crowds and said police only used batons and teargas.

Sarhan told Asharq Al-Awsat: “While police were on the ring road around the Zaatari camp on the southeastern side, three families were seen trying to leave the camp illegally through the sand barrier.” At the same time, he said, “three people were trying to enter the camp from the same place carrying food and other goods.”

He added: “When police attempted to apprehend the infiltrators, they shouted for people in the camp to come to their help. Around 700 of them gathered initially and threw stones at the police in an attempt to free the detainees and the confiscated goods.”

Sarhan said the violence escalated as the number of residents involved in the disturbances swelled to a “few thousand,” leading Jordanian police to call in reinforcements from the national riot police and border patrol. According to the spokesman, the disturbances resulted in injuries to 29 security officers, and 20 Syrian refugees were treated for tear-gas inhalation.

Residents of the camp told Reuters that the disturbances started when a Jordanian police officer ran over a four-year-old child. Sarhan denied reports of a car hitting a child and said: “This story is completely unfounded.”

Meanwhile, several Syrian refugees told Asharq Al-Awsat, with one saying: “The disturbances happened because police banned refugees from leaving the camp illegally to work at a nearby farm, which was previously overlooked by the administration of the camp.”

Majid Al-Amir contributed reporting from Amman