AskarThe camp of Askar lies within the municipal boundaries of the town of Nablus in the West Bank. In 1950 Jordan incorporated8 the West Bank and held it under its jurisdiction until the 1967 War when Israel occupied the territory most of which is still kept under Israeli administration. In December 1987, the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation, the intifada, evolved in different parts within the West Bank. In September 1993, the PLO and the Israeli government signed the Declaration of Principles (DoP) which envisaged a future autonomous Palestinian rule in the Occupied Territories.
Before 1948 most camp residents in Askar lived in about 25 towns and villages in the Jaffa and Haifa districts. There are also Bedouins who originate from the Jaffa and Beersheba districts.
When founded in 1950, Askar occupied approximately 119,000 square metres. In 1964 the camp was expanded by another 90,000 square metres (UNRWA - West Bank Field Office, August 1994). The "old" and the "new" Askar camp are regarded as one camp, although they are geographically divided by agricultural fields. The camp is erected on private-owned land.
In 1964 UNRWA had built 1,319 shelters. According to UNRWA's May 1967 figures, the registered refugee population was 5,671 people constituting 994 families (Benvenisti 1986:185). The July 1994 figures show that 10,576 people, constituting 2,324 families, inhabit the camp (UNRWA - West Bank Field Office, August 1994). Since 1964 the camp's boundaries have not changed while the population has grown. The camp therefore suffers from a high population density, but not as high as that of Wihdat.
People lived in tents before UNRWA built mud brick houses which were replaced by cement housing after 1960. During the intifada many people rebuilt their houses and enlarged them to two and three-storey buildings without a permit. In July 1994 UNRWA was rebuilding 30 old houses in Askar camp as part of its Peace Implementation Program (PIP). All housing units are provided with water and electricity from the municipality of Nablus.
In the agricultural area between the old and the new camp, farmers from Azmot grow vegetables. Some plots have been sold to private persons who have erected private houses and apartment buildings. Above the camp there exists a popular living area where new houses were built in the 1980s. An increasing number of camp residents are buying houses in those neighbourhoods.
All UNRWA facilities, except one kindergarten founded by Save the Children, are situated in "old Askar". These facilities include the camp office, a youth centre, a clinic, a women centre and two kindergartens, and four schools covering elementary and preparatory class serving 2,225 pupils (Askar Camp Office, June 1994). The women's centre offers sewing and embroidery programmes, courses in literacy, and lectures in health. UNRWA's services are available for those possessing a refugee card, these being Palestinians registered as UNRWA-refugees. Registered refugees do not have to live in the camp to receive the services. Card-holders living outside the camp are also entitled to camp services offered in the camp.
Local employment opportunities are limited. Inside the camp residents have opened all kinds of shops where electrical articles, food and clothing are sold. There are second hand markets, hair parlours and billiard cafes. Some women work in sewing centres on contracts with Israeli companies. Some men work in car garages located on the main road, others work in local small-scale factories such as soap-fabrication industries. The construction industry and the big vegetable market, where most of the vegetables is brought from the farmers around Nablus, are two sectors which also provide employment. Some camp residents are employed by UNRWA. After the border closure of March 1993 a few workers have been allowed to go back to their work in Israel, where they work in factories, service industries and construction. Other workers try to work in Israel illegally because the salary is higher than in the local market.
8.) As a result of a public conference attended by Palestinian notables which has held in Jericho in 1948, it was decided that the West Bank and the East Bank of the Jordan river were to be linked