Syrian refugees face squalid conditions, made worse lately by a winter storm. At the Zaatari camp, above, refugees made their way through mud. Frustrated after their tents collapsed in high winds, some refugees in the Jordanian camp attacked aid workers with sticks and stones.
Mohammad Hannon, Associated Press
Winter storm compounds misery of Syrian refugees
- January 8, 2013 - 10:11 PM
ZAATARI, JORDAN - A winter storm is magnifying the misery for tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the country's civil war, turning a refugee camp into a muddy swamp where howling winds tore down tents and exposed the displaced residents to freezing temperatures.
Some frustrated refugees at a camp in Zaatari, where about 50,000 are sheltered, attacked aid workers with sticks and stones after the tents collapsed in 35-mph winds, said Ghazi Sarhan, spokesman for the Jordanian charity that helps run the camp. Police said seven Jordanian workers were injured.
After three days of rain, muddy water engulfed tents housing refugees including pregnant women and infants. Those who didn't move out used buckets to bail out the water; others built walls of mud to try to stay dry.
Conditions in the Zaatari camp were "worse than living in Syria," said Fadi Suleiman, a 30-year-old refugee.
Most of Zaatari's residents are children under age 18 and women. They are some of the more than 280,000 Syrians who fled to Jordan since the uprising against President Bashar Assad broke out in March 2011.
About a half-million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries including Turkey and Lebanon to escape the civil war that has killed an estimated 60,000 people in nearly two years of fighting.
"We're desperate. We need a solution fast," said Abu Bilal, who wore a red and white checkered scarf on his head for warmth. "People's reactions may get out of hand, especially if they see their child fall ill or even die. They could do something that nobody will be able to control or blame them for."
"Zaatari is sinking," said another refugee who is a 21-year- father of two toddlers who said their tent has been flooded for days.
CLINTON TO TESTIFY ON EMBASSY ATTACK
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton likely will testify before the panel about the assault in Libya that killed four Americans.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said in an interview Tuesday on MSNBC that Clinton probably will testify the morning of Jan. 22.
The State Department said the date hasn't been finalized and there was no official word from the committee. Clinton had been scheduled to testify last month but fell during an illness, suffered a concussion and was hospitalized for a blood clot.
Clinton returned to work Monday. She had promised to appear before the Senate and House foreign affairs panels before stepping down from her job. Obama has nominated Sen. John Kerry to replace her.
JUDGE CHALLENGES NEW CONSTITUTION
The only female judge to sit on Egypt's highest court said she has filed the first legal challenge against the country's highly contentious constitution, which cost her the seat she held.
Tahani el-Gebali said she filed her complaint to the Supreme Constitutional Court questioning the legality of the charter, which she said was drafted and passed illegally.
But experts said they doubted the constitutional court would try to intervene in the charter now that it was approved in a referendum last month. Doing so would likely spark a direct clash with Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
The constitution has sharply polarized Egyptians. The opposition organized massive rallies last month against the charter, deadly clashes erupted and there were calls for delaying a national vote on it. Still, the document passed by a 64 percent "yes" vote in a referendum in which around only 33 percent of voters participated.
Morsi and supporters of the charter had argued its passing would restore stability to Egypt and complete a rocky transition toward democracy. But the opposition challenged it because it was drafted by a Constituent Assembly dominated by Islamists amid a boycott by liberal and Christian members.
The court is to convene on Jan. 15 for the first time since the constitution came into effect. It is unclear whether it will immediately look into el-Gebali's suit.
© 2013 Star Tribune