Palestinians starve to death in South Damascus

By DaveM

Not only is Ba’athism brutal, it is also absurd. It’s an ideology which, as Paul Berman points out, “has slaughtered more Arabs than any institution in modern history”. Despite this (or rather because of this) it claims to have the interests of the Palestinians at heart.

A few months ago Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said the Palestinian cause will remain Syria’s top national concern. Shortly afterward Bashar Al Assad asserted that Palestinian rights will remain priority for Syria, and Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad said pretty much the same thing.

Recently Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi claimed that what’s happening in Syria is an attempt to bring down the flag of Palestine in Damascus. And who could forget the insincerity of Phoenicia’s very own Marie Antoinette in her interview for CNN in 2009?

On January 11 the regime-allied news station Al Akhbaria broadcast this bizarre screed as part of its news broadcast, a report called “Because they have no roots”:

“It’s clear that the Sons of Zion aren’t just content with killing and stealing Palestinian Arab land. For they have surpassed their crimes (against) man to attack the tree, which with their malice and lack of humanity, they cut down.

“Zionist settlers went about cutting down Palestinians’ fruit trees in the region of Kafr Qasim which lies about 40 km West of the village of Kasra.

“The settlers who went about destroying the orchard and cutting down the trees, distributed leaflets which said ‘Greetings from Yesh Kodish’ – a random settlement from which the settlers came from. The settlers were detained and beaten by Palestinians defending themselves and their land when the settlers came to the Palestinian village of Kasra.

“The inhabitants of the Palestinian village of Kasra defended themselves and their land when the Zionist settlers came to it, just as the Sons of Palestine are defending their cause by taking back their land which was usurped by the Zionist Enemy. However the Zionist Settlers’ response by cutting down the trees is evidence of the Entity’s malice, (an Entity) which lives without roots on a land which doesn’t belong to it.

“So it took revenge on the Palestinian tree (which is) planted in the ground, just as Arab Palestine’s roots are deep rooted in the map of Arab resistance which hasn’t and will not die.”

Yet all the while the Ba’athists were loudly declaring their solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank, they have been starving them to death in South Damascus ever since rebel fighters sought refuge there. The regime’s response along with its Palestinian allies in the PFLP (GC) was to enforce a siege on Yarmouk, a siege which has been in effect since July 2013. Activists claim that so far over 40 people have died from starvation.

The same day Al Akhbaria was broadcasting its outrage about Israelis cutting down Palestinians’ trees, Lebanese station LBCi reported that the the Ba’athists’ siege on Yarmouk was forcing starving Palestinians to eat leaves. LBCi managed to get access to what it says is footage of people starving to death. While it can’t be independently verified, this footage is consistent with the reports which have been coming out of the area. The footage is very disturbing indeed.

“Here is the Yarmouk camp, or camp of death or starvation, the names mean the same thing. Here around 20,000 Palestinians have been under siege for more than 7 months. After the food ran out a couple of months ago, the weakest– children and the elderly– are paying the price, which is death by starvation in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp which lies in South Damascus.

“They’re eating leaves and grass amidst dozens of them dying from starvation, including women and children.

“Footage was able to break though the siege and show the magnitude of the tragedy that the inhabitants of Yarmouk are living through. One of the faces of the suffering is the little girl ‘Ala who is suffering from kidney failure and dehydration resulting from malnutrition and lack of medicine. However she’s not the only one going through this.

“So what are the children and elderly in the Yarmouk camp of death guilty of?

“The footage of them dying has filled the TV screens and social media websites. And despite the severity of these images the sleeping consciences of those responsible have not been moved. Death by starvation in the Yarmouk camp is the responsibility of who?”

The Telegraph reports that the Syrian Army has besieged Yarmouk, meaning no food can get in and nobody can get out, although Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency quotes PLO sources saying that Islamist opposition fighters were preventing food aid reaching those in need.

On the 7th January Khaled Abu Toameh rightly pointed out that it’s not just the Ba’athists who are hypocrites, as there’s nothing unusual with the international community turning a blind eye to this.

Besides issuing laconic statements calling for the lifting of the siege, PLO leaders have not been able to do much to help the residents of Yarmouk camp.

Zakariya al-Agha, head of the PLO’s refugees department, said in a brief statement that the death of Palestinian refugees as a result of the shortage of food and medicine is a “crime” for which the warring parties in Syria are responsible.

The PLO official pointed out that 37 Palestinians have so far died from starvation in the camp.

Yet the PLO leadership has stopped short of calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council or the Arab League to end the suffering of the Palestinian refugees in Syria.

The Arab League did meet recently in Cairo at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But the gathering was called not to discuss the plight of the Palestinian refugees, but to talk about [Secretary of State John] Kerry’s latest proposals for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The plight of the Palestinian refugees in Syria serves as a reminder to all Palestinians that their Arab brothers do not care about their suffering. In several Arab countries, especially Lebanon, Palestinians continue to be treated as a “fifth column” and an “enemy from within.”

The Palestinians once again feel betrayed by their Arab brothers, who continue to pay lip service to the Palestinian cause while at the same time starving them to death, killing them and displacing them.

As for the international community, no one seems to be worried about the starving Palestinians in an Arab country. After all, this is not taking place in Israel and no Israelis are involved.

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