Catastrophe for Syrians and Palestinians alike in war-ravaged country

A Syrian boy climbs the rubble of buildings destroyed by Syrian government forces in the Ansari neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo on 1 August.

Ameer al-Halbi APA images

The United Nations Security Council has thrown its weight behind a political process to end the catastrophic war in Syria as the situation for millions in the country remains as dire as ever.

Those affected include an estimated 450,000 Palestinian refugees who remain in Syria after nearly five years of violence that has claimed a quarter of a million lives, according to the UN.

Last week marked the third anniversary of the start of the mass flight of the majority of the 150,000 residents of Yarmouk – the largest Palestinian population center in the country, and home to many Syrians – after rebel forces entered the camp and its central mosque was hit in government airstrikes.

Since then, electricity and water supplies to the camp on the outskirts of Damascus have been cut and a complete siege was imposed by government forces and allied groups in July 2013.

Dozens of the thousands still trapped inside the camp starved to death that following winter, and many more have been killed during clashes and ongoing shelling and strikes on Yarmouk.

In April this year, the camp was infiltrated by fighters with the Islamic State group and various armed factions continue to vie for control of this southern gateway to the capital at the expense of its remaining civilian population.

Refugees displaced

Yarmouk is not the only Palestinian refugee camp that has been affected by the devastating war.

Ein al-Tal, Deraa, Husseiniyeh, Sbeineh and Khan Eshieh “have suffered significant shelling, destruction and the massive displacement of their populations,” according to a paper published by the Palestinian think tank al-Shabaka.

Government forces have cut off Khan Eshieh from neighboring Damascus since June.

The Palestinian civil society group Jafra Foundation for Relief and Youth Development stated last week that “Since 2011, more than 250,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria have been forcibly displaced from their camps.”

A further estimated 100,000 Palestinians remain in areas with restricted humanitarian access, according to the group.

The UN stated this week that 4.5 million people live in areas of Syria that are difficult for humanitarian aid agencies to reach, and nearly 400,000 are trapped in besieged areas, including some Palestinian camps.

From September to November this year, the UN was able to access “only 32 percent of the hard-to-reach locations.”

As result, “only around 1 percent of the besieged population received food aid, and less than 1 percent health care.”

The Security Council stated on Tuesday that almost 14 million people in Syria require urgent humanitarian aid and called on all parties, particularly the government, to immediately lift access restrictions and let in vital assistance.

The body also condemned “the widespread use of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary executions, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence, as well as grave violations and abuses committed against children.”

Millions now refugees

An estimated 4.2 million people have fled the country, most of them women and children, according to the UN.

A further 6.5 million people are internally displaced within Syria – nearly half of the remaining population.

Most of those who left are in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Nine out of 10 Syrians in Jordan and Lebanon live below the poverty lines of their host countries.

“Not having been allowed to work legally, refugees are increasingly vulnerable, dependent on scarce humanitarian assistance, and forced to go into debt to feed their families,” António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told the Security Council on Monday.

“Only half of all refugee children are in school,” Guterres added.

Syria is meanwhile experiencing a massive brain drain, UNHCR found after surveying 1,200 refugees from the country in Greece, almost half of them university-educated.

Of the nearly one million people who reached Europe by boat this year, more than half of them were Syrians, according to the commissioner.

More than 3,700 people perished while attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Palestinians fleeing the carnage in Syria face particular hardship, including a non-entry policy in Jordan, harsh entry and residency restrictions in Lebanon and unclear legal status in Turkey, according to al-Shabaka.

Such barriers to finding safe refuge have compelled many Palestinians to embark on clandestine journeys to Europe, which, al-Shabaka states, “require those who take them to sacrifice their life savings and are filled with uncertainty and danger.”

These dangers, al-Shabaka adds, include “being abandoned by smugglers before reaching their destination; of being cheated out of their money by smugglers without making it to Europe; of being shot at, arrested or detained by the authorities at points of departure; of being arrested, detained and even tortured along the way or upon arrival by European authorities; or of drowning during the crossing of the Mediterranean.”

Palestinians in Syria

Before the upheaval in Syria began in early 2011, there were more than half a million Palestinian refugees registered with the UN in the country.

Of the 450,000 estimated to remain, most are internally displaced within Syria.

The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria has registered the names of more than 3,000 Palestinians in the country killed since 2011.

Approximately 1,300 Palestinian refugees have been detained or disappeared in the country, according to the group.

Most Palestinian refugees in Syria were forced from their homes during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, or are the descendents of those who were displaced.

For decades Israel has denied them and millions of other Palestinian refugees their right to return to their homeland.

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Comments

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2015 years ago, the saviour was born. What did the people hope for who believed in him? They hoped for the end of corrupt military occupation and military dictatorship.

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It's good to see a mention, even so brief, and even just in passing, of Assad's responsibility for the displacement and massacres.
But see in contrast this article by prominent healthcare professionals on the true extent of his criminality, in this case via targeting of hospitals, clinics, ambulances, etc.
The same detailed approach and assignment of blame deserves to be in all articles about Syria.
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/1...

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A new investigation in the London Review of Books by renowned American journalist Seymour M. Hersh exposes the divide between the US top brass and the politicians in the White House when it comes to dealing with Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq.
The remarks of Hersh about the role of the US concerning the relation between Syria and Israel fits exactly in the history of zionism which I describe down here. " The American journalist alleges that, in return for the US Joint Chiefs intelligence-sharing arrangement, Damascus was to accept four conditions: restrain Hezbollah from attacking Israel; renew dialogue with Israel over the Golan Height........"

It is a plan which long exists. It started with Herzl when he wrote his "der Judenstaat" ( The state of the jews ) back in 1897. It says:
"If His Majesty the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we
could offer to resolve
Turkey’s finances. For Europe, we would form part of a bulwark against Asia
there, we would serve as the advance post of civilisation against barbarism. As a neutral state we would have relations with all of Europe, which would guarantee our existence."
And that is exactly what happens today. This plan came really in existence with the Camp David agreements. So Egypt was neutralized. After that came Jordan with US pressure and money. Than Iraq with the US & UK invasion. This took place because of the pressure of israel. Look for that episode: deWalt&Mearsheimer, The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy. When Iraq was eliminated there were only a few states and one organisation which were threatening the colonial jewish project. Lybia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Lybia was dealt with not long ago with the bombardments of the western powers. Syria is dealt with right now. By overthrowing Bashir al Assad and splitting up Syria in tiny states it will be hard for Iran to sustain Hezbollah which is considered a serious threat by israel. Israel remembers well it's nearly defeat by Hezbollah in 2006.

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Nestor Makhno's analysis is eloquent until one gets to the
conclusions. His analysis assumes that the Israeli plans
will be realized. Not all observers are so convinced.
Neither is this writer although the final verdict is as
yet unclear.

I recommend that Makno read with care:

1. Gareth Porter, "The Real Obstacles to Syrian
Peace", Consortiumnews.com, 19 December, 2015

2.Mike Whitney, "Putin's Progress in Syria Sends
Kerry Scrambling to the United Nations"
Counterpunch News, 23 December 2015

There are, of course, other sources.

At the very least, it is currently far from a certainly that
"Syria is dealt with right now" and remarks following this
presumption about the splitting up of Syria etc.

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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I will read the articles you mention in your comment. I still have to add something for which there weren't enough characters left in my first comment.
By now it is obvious that israel is playing it's part in the destruction of Syria. It is known by UNPROFOR GOLAN reports that israel is actively involved in supporting al Nusra with armament and munition, food en medical supplies. It intervenes regurarly in the fights between al Nusra elements and Hezbollah units and the Syrian army. Recently it became clear that israel is a client of IS by buying of its oil. For sure there are a lot of secret operations in Iraq and Syria by the IDF and Shin Beth of which we haven't the slightest idea.
There is a kind of agreement between Saudi Arabia, some other Gulf states and israel of which nothing is publicly known. But the developments are clear. The Gulf states and particularly Saudi Arabia have their version of antagonism with Iran. With israel it is mainly the support of Hezbollah and Syria by Iran, with Saudi Arabia and Iran it is their struggle about hegemonism in the ME. Although Iran has clearly better intellectual capacities, the Saudis have the affluent means. Saudi Arabia is not to be governed without the help by westerns, either individuals or companies. It is run by the west.
The cause for the birth of IS and it's forerunner al Zarqawi is the shortsighted politics of the US in Iraq after the invasion. After the invasion Paul Bremer became the first governor of Iraq. One of the first things he ordered was the dismantling of the Baath and the army. A very stupid thing to do. The military went back home and was looking for revenge. the same with the Baath members. Al Zarqawi attracted a lot of former members of the army and Baath members aswell. After al Zarqawi died IS became it's successor. I presume it is due to it's former Iraqi army members that IS is operating quite successfully.

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Many thanks for your additional comment of 29 December.
You have the events (as much as we know as you carefully
pointed out) in excellent focus.

Israeli-Syrian relations have never been intimate---"warm and
fuzzy". See for example Norman J. Finkelstein's IMAGE AND
REALITY...(2nd Ed., paperback), pp.125-126, with
warnings of military action, NYT "Israelis Ponder Blow at
Syrians..." (NYT). "a major military clash with Syria
seemed inevitable...(Jeruselum Post) , US State Department
"cautioned" Israel against the "unsettling effects of its
threatening statements..." etc.

Surprisingly, I have little to add to your persuasive comments.

Thanks again!!

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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The horrific effects of the war in Syria are indisputable.
They affect Palestinians.

While this is surely an unpopular view among Palestinians
and their advocates, I support the Syrian Government in
affirming: 1. its independence 2.its territorial integr1ty
and 3. its sovereignty.

So too have UN Security Council resolutions in 2014 and
2015.

The electronic newsletter CONSORTIUMNEWS.COM
has long provided in-depth information (Editor-
in-Chief Robert Parry, Gareth Porter, Ray McGovern
and others.) COUNTERPUNCH has added key
analyses of background as well as prognoses,
analysis of motive.

Do not be mislead by the fabricated allegations
based most often on no proven evidence.

It appears that the violence of Da'esh (ISIS) is
misconstrued not only by this article but by
the west in general (See Patrick Cockburn's
THE RETURN OF THE JIHADIS, 2014, prior
to the entrance of Russia in particular as
concerns the use of the media in the conflict.)

According to Gareth Porter in CONSORTIUM
no agreement is likely. His analysis of the
meeting at Ryadh is relevant. Mike Whitney
in COUNTERPUNCH only yesterday analyzed
in depth the results of Secretary Kerry's
meetings in Moscow.

The issues regarding the strife in Syria, Iraq and
elsewhere are complex and much has been
written.

In violent wars people die. Many have been
Palestinians. But the origins, funding etc.
are complex (eg involving Saudi Arabia,
Israel, Jordan, Turkey as well as the US.

My dream would be that the US and west
sjupport Bashar al-Assad not only in
his conflict to defend his nation but in
the supply of cash and expertise to
rebjuild what Da'esh (ISIS etc.) have
ruined. It is doubtful that this will happen.
This approach would benefit all the
minorities (including Palestinians,
Christians etc.) who in the past benefited
from a government committed to the
health and welfare of all its constituent
groups.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.