RIA Novosti correspondent Mikhail Alaeddin visited the Handarat camp almost immediately after its liberation and interviewed several of the fighters who had helped capture it.
The refugee camp is an important strategic position on the south-west side of Aleppo. It has been a target for both the Syrian Army and rebel forces. On Sunday, the Syrian Army deployed with the intention to retake the city with the help with Palestinian al-Quds fighters. The camp has been under the control of armed groups supported by the United States and Turkey, as well as the terrorists of al-Nusra Front, for more than two years. The camp gained its notoriety in late July when three Nureddin al-Zenki militants executed an 11-year-old boy. He was accused of reporting terrorist locations in Handarat to government troops. The boy, Abdullah Issa, was the son of an al-Quds militia fighters. US officials said that the execution was an isolated event and that it should not be used to characterize this group as terrorists.
When Alaeddin entered the camp there were some militiamen with their flags and armbands. Surprisingly, inside the camp not a single Syrian soldier was to be seen. The men who had recaptured the city were part of the Liwa al-Quds brigade who had lived their entire life in the Handarat refugee camp.
“Our brigade stormed the city, we know every corner here. Our militia was supported by artillery and Special Forces. However, everything was destroyed, there was nothing left of my house, just boulders. We were fighting for our second home, the first was left back in Palestine, such is our fate,” militiaman Maher, with a plastered hand, told RIA. Some of the more interesting things which were found were guns the locals called “guns of hell,” 3-5 meter artillery tubes each weighing over 40 kilograms and all labeled in Turkish. “You have correctly noticed these cylinders are of Turkish production. We do not make these here and yes, these are the exact ones that fall on the residential neighborhoods in Aleppo,” Hamada told the RIA correspondent.
Additionally, other weapons were found, such as 81-mm mortar shells used by NATO, and judging by the markings, made in the US. The US government, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and a number of other Western countries continue to call the armed groups of Ahrar ash-Sham, Nureddin al-Zenki, Jaish al-Fatah as moderate opposition, despite the fact, that they and dozens of other smaller groups are now fighting under the command of al-Nusra Front. After the Liwa al-Quds militia captured the city, they were given an order to keep their positions in the camp. Some people we able to return, however they had to use the southern entrance to the city as the northern gate was being heavily shelled by the militants.
However, the Syrian Army’s success did not last long. In the morning, the commander of the Liwa al-Quds brigade reported that the Palestinian militia fighters had to leave most of the camp after radical forces launched a counterattack. The rebels had subsequently regained control. “At night, terrorists attacked simultaneously from three sides after preliminary heavy mortar fire. We had to retreat from most areas of the camp,” the representative told RIA Novosti.