Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip have raised $10 million in less than a month to build homes for Syrian refugees, according to activists behind the campaign.
"The idea was to collect 100 heaters for 100 houses. Then we found out that people are helping and we have lots of stuff," Ibrahim Khalil, 33, a social activist from the city of Nazareth, said Monday.
For the past six years, Palestinians have been donating food and other essentials to Syrian refugees in the Idlib region bordering Turkey through a non-profit group called Merciful Souls.
But the volume of donations this winter season was unprecedented, the head of the organization, Raed Badr, said. He believes videos that circulated on social media of children suffering from cold in the snow motivated people to open their pockets.
"One day, I hope they will move us into a home because the rain is drowning our tents," eleven-year-old Nada, an orphaned girl living with her grandmother, said in one video.
The plan is to build around 3,000 housing units, Badr said. Construction will also include clinics and schools, based on a model published on the organization's website.
Khalil said organizers hope construction of the homes will be completed in six to eight months.
A call for contributions went viral on social media with the Arabic hashtag "houses instead of tents."
The images of displaced families resonated with Palestinians because they had suffered as refugees living in tents for years, said Khalil, after they were forced from their homes or fled in the war that surrounded Israel's creation in 1948.
Snowfall and cold weather have made the situation difficult in Idlib's tent camps, with strong winds causing destruction.
In freezing temperatures, children huddle together to keep themselves warm, burning pieces of plastic, old shoes and scraps of wood they collect for kindling.
Turkish aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continue to assist those in urgent need in northwestern Syria. Many Turkish NGOs and state agencies, including the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) and Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), keep providing vital humanitarian aid and conducting humanitarian efforts in the region hosting nearly 4 million people.
The Idlib region is home to nearly 2.8 million displaced people and the last Syrian enclave to oppose the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus.
Idlib falls within a de-escalation zone forged under an agreement between Turkey and Russia in March 2020. However, the Assad regime has consistently violated the cease-fire terms, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.