Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Assad Regime Besieges Palestinians in Yarmouk Since December 2012

The recently released book, Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami mentions the dire situation in Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, a suburb mainly inhibited by Palestinians in Syria.

Some sympathetic towards the Assad regime say that Syria was quite hospitable towards the Palestinians who lived there. In such writings it is mentioned that the Assad regime treated Palestinians well, let them be integrated into society more than other Arab countries and was generous towards them allowing them to benefit from state resources like Syrian citizens.

The Assad regime's use of mass violence against an initially peaceful protest movement in 2011 has destroyed all of this. This can be seen most frightfully in the ongoing siege by the Assad regime against the Palestinian refugee camp, Yarmouk in Damascus.

Due to the influence of the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PLFP-GC) and a general wish among the Palestinians in Syria to stay neutral at first Yarmouk was neutral. But of course it suffered as the wider conflict afflicted the rest of Syria. At first neutrality was maintained but eventually the severe, asymmetric conflict would engulf Yarmouk as well.

Gradually tensions increased. The pro-Assad PFLP-GC searched houses in Yarmouk looking for weapons. Yarmouk was near a rebel held area. Tensions increased. On August 3, 2012 Yarmouk was shelled and 21 people were killed. Starting in October 2012 some of the rebels began to organize a group among the Palestinians in Syria named Liwa al-Asifa (Storm Brigade) according to a report by Reuters. Some accounts say armed clashes began in early December 2012.

Then came one fateful day. On December 16, 2012 an Assad regime aircraft attacked Yarmouk killing many people. According to Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami 40 people were killed in the Assad regime bombardment.

Once again brutality and bloodshed by the Assad regime strengthened the anti-Assad movement. The anti-Assad regime movement began as a direct response to acts of violence and brutality by the Assad regime in early 2011. The pain of losing loved ones though violence and fear of being killed by the Assad regime's bombardments stirred people to protect themselves from the Assad regime and take up arms in response.

Here are some articles discussing this moment. This one is from The Guardian:
A bomb dropped by a Syrian air force jet killed and wounded scores of Palestinians on Sunday in the largest refugee camp in Damascus, sending thousands of residents fleeing for other areas of the capital now besieged by civil war. ...

The attack is believed to be the first strike on Yarmouk by an air force jet, the most potent weapon used so far by the regime in its defence of the capital. A bomb dropped from a jet hit a mosque near the centre of the camp.

The death toll is unknown, but videos posted online showed carnage near the mosque and dead and injured people being collected by residents. There were reports that hundreds of families were making plans to flee. (Martin Chulov, December 16, 2016.)
This article is from Los Angeles Times. It was written at the time of the battle so only eight are reported dead in this article.
BEIRUT — Battles raged Sunday in a sprawling Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus as Syrian government troops pressed an offensive against rebels on the outskirts of the capital.
Opposition activists reported at least eight killed when rockets from Syrian fighter jets struck near the Abdul Qader Husseini mosque in the Yarmouk camp, on the southern fringes of Damascus. Video said to be from the scene shows blood-streaked pavement and wounded people lying amid the rubble.
The reported airstrike on Yarmouk would mark the first time that the government had used warplanes to target the camp, a densely populated urban zone that is home to tens of thousands, both Palestinians and non-Palestinians. (Patrick J. McDonnell and Nabih Bulos, December 16, 2012.)
The Los Angeles Times also stated that the pro-Assad PFLP-GC claimed the rebels were with Al Qaeda's arm in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra. It is quite typical for the Assad regime to simplistically portray anti-Assad militias this way to make the Assad regime appear necessary and indispensable. It may have been partly true but as far as I know accounts mention the Free Syrian Army and Liwa al-Asifa as kicking out the Assad regime from Yarmouk. It does appear there may have been some "Nusra fighters" in besieged Yarmouk as will be mentioned later.

This is from Al Akhbar.
After fierce battles on Sunday, 16 December 2012, Palestinian neutrality in the Syrian crisis collapsed completely as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamist fighters overran most of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus.

Damascus – The battle over the Yarmouk refugee camp between the Free Syrian Army and Islamists, on one side, and the Syrian security forces and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), on the other, intensified over the past few days. ...

The situation is particularly bad around the Abdul-Qader al-Husseini mosque in the center of the camp, which was directly struck by a rocket Sunday morning, killing and maiming a large number of Syrian and Palestinian civilians who had taken refuge there.

There were, however, conflicting media reports as to who was behind the attack on the mosque. (Anas Zarzar and Marah Mashi, December 17, 2012)
Mondoweiss made an article about Palestinians fleeing from Yarmouk into Lebanon in the immediate aftermath of the battle. A rebel militia named the National Unity Brigade is mentioned as being present in Yarmouk.
Palestinians began fleeing on Monday after pro-regime forces instructed residents to leave the camp via text messages, and surrounded Yarmouk following air strikes on December 16 that killed 25. ...

... fighters inside of the camp with the anti-regime National Unity Brigade claim Palestinians are in combat alongside Syrians to expel pro-Assad forces. With internet and electricity blackouts in Yarmouk throughout the week, the extent to which Palestinians are engaging in armed struggle–for or against the regime–is still unknown. (Alison Degar, December 20, 2012)
Here is the relevant article from Wikipedia: Battle of Yarmouk Camp (December 2012).

Alas to this day there has been no respite for the unfortunate people still in Yarmouk. To this day it is still besieged by the Assad regime. According to IRIN on July 10, 2013, just two days into Ramadan, the Assad regime completed the siege and stopped food and medicine from entering Yarmouk.

Then in early April 2015 the terrorists of ISIL somehow managed to seize control of large parts of besieged Yarmouk. Burning Country mentions that some activists blamed "treacherous Nusra fighters" letting them in and the Assad regime which somehow failed to prevent ISIL's advance into besieged Yarmouk.

Considering this dreadful siege currently underway in Yarmouk it is no wonder why so many cannot take claims that the Assad regime treats Palestinians well seriously. Perhaps that was true before March 2011 but it is not true now. So many terrible things have happened by now.

The Assad regime's campaign of mass violence against the opposition destroyed peace and whatever good was given to the Palestinians before has now been squandered and lost because of the Assad regime's use of mass violence against an initially peaceful protest movement.

Once the war began unfortunately Yarmouk was not spared in the severe and bloody asymmetric, armed conflict. It is still besieged by the Assad regime and is mainly ruled by the terrorists of ISIL.

Tragically the Syrian people continue to suffer from the catastrophe imposed upon them by the Assad regime's campaign of violence and repression. A recent UN report noted that the Assad regime's treatment of prisoners may amount to extermination.

In recent days many Syrians have fled for their lives from Aleppo in the wake of severe bombardment and advances by the Assad regime. This will further contribute to the ongoing refugee crisis.

The Syrian people deserve to live in peace and safety. It is just so terrible.

No comments:

Post a Comment