The London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria estimated the number of Palestinians who have died of torture in Syrian prisons at 614. Another 205 Palestinians died as a result of lack of proper medical treatment because of the Syrian army’s siege on the Yarmouk refugee camp, the group said. Pictured: Yarmouk refugee camp, near Damascus, on May 22, 2018, days after Syrian government forces regained control over the camp. (Photo by Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images)
It appears it is going to be another bad year for the Palestinians in Syria as they continue to face death and fall victim to various repressive measures, including displacement, torture, and extra-judicial killings.
It is unlikely, however, that 2020 will witness any change in the international community’s attitude towards the plight of the Palestinians there. The world, including the United Nations, Europe and other international human rights and “pro-Palestinian” organizations, have not moved to help the Palestinians of Syria in the past nine years — so, why should this year be any different?
How has this terrible dismissal come to pass? Simple: Because these Palestinians’ problems cannot be blamed on Israel. They are being killed and tortured in an Arab country, by their own brothers, and as far as the world is concerned, as long as there is no way to hold Israel responsible, it is fine for Arabs to commit atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.
The Palestinians of Syria have only one way to draw the international community’s attention to their plight: if they move to the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Then, hundreds of foreign journalists and human rights organizations from all around the world would converge and point the finger of blame at Israel.
About 58% of the Palestinians in Syria have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of the civil war in that country in 2011.
Translated into numbers, that means more than 370,000 Palestinians have been displaced in just one of the Arab countries.
That figure was released earlier last week by Hassan Abdel Hamid, a senior official with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist secular organization belonging to the PLO.
Hamid said that 200,000 Palestinians who fled their refugee camps remain in Syria, while the remaining 170,000 managed to escape to other countries.
He revealed that 20% of the homes in Yarmouk refugee camp, near Damascus, have been completely destroyed during the fighting between the Syrian army and opposition groups. Another 40% of the camp’s houses require urgent renovation because of the damage they suffered during the armed clashes, he said.
The DFLP official accused the PLO leadership and international parties, particularly the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), of failing to “carry out their duties” towards the 560,000 Palestinians in Syria.
Hamid’s statements, published at the start of the new year, came as the number of Palestinians killed in Syria continue to rise.
The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS), a London-based human rights watchdog that monitors the situation of Palestinian refugees in Syria, revealed on the eve of the new year that the number of Palestinians killed in Syria since 2011 has reached 4,013. Some of the Palestinians were killed while fighting alongside the Syrian army, while others were killed while fighting alongside various opposition groups.
Many innocent civilians, caught in the crossfire, were also killed, while dozens are reported to have died under torture in Syrian prisons and detention facilities.
AGPS estimated the number of Palestinians who have died of torture in Syrian prisons at 614. Another 205 Palestinians died as a result of lack of proper medical treatment and medicine because of the Syrian army’s siege on the Yarmouk refugee camp, the group said.
Another 311 Palestinians were killed by sniper gunfire, 142 in various bombings, 92 in “extra-judicial killings” by the Syrian authorities and its proxy groups, and 315 who were executed or died of suffocation and arson incidents. At least 52 Palestinians are believed to have drowned while trying to reach Europe.
In another disturbing revelation by AGPS, at least 18 Palestinian journalists were killed since the outburst of deadly hostilities in Syria in March 2011.
“The casualties died while covering scenes on the battleground or while providing civilians with relief assistance,” AGPS noted.
“Facts on the ground prove that the number of casualties is much higher. Difficulties in documentation stem from the absence of official statistics, lack of concern regarding the number of Palestinian casualties, journalists in particular, and the intricacy of the name-identification process. The list includes nine journalists who died under shelling, five who were tortured to death, and four others who were fatally shot. Scores of activists, journalists, and correspondents have, meanwhile, been secretly locked up in Syrian government dungeons for years.”
Alarmed by the world’s continuing indifference toward the plight of the Palestinians in Syria in general and that of journalists in particular, AGPS denounced the “apathy by the international community and Palestinian leadership regarding the extra-judicial killing, harsh torture, and arbitrary detention” of Palestinians in Syria.
This “apathy,” however is unlikely to go away of its own accord. The Palestinians in Syria and other Arab countries are left to pray for a miracle that would rid them of the miseries and crimes to which they are subjected on a daily basis at the hands of their fellow Arabs. The Arab countries have long proven that their sole interest in the Palestinians is to use them as puppets to serve the interests of Arab dictators and corrupt Arab regimes. The Palestinians in Syria have long known that, for them, no Arab country is a safe haven.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.