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The forgotten Palestinians in the Syrian hell

Palestinian children hold candles in solidarity with the Palestinian refugees in Syria [Mohammed Asad/Apaimages]

The Syrians have become a forgotten people. All the pain they experienced over the past six years has not moved the world, which looks at the Syrian holocaust and turns its head away so that it doesn’t see it. This is because it does not want to do anything for this nation that has suffered greatly and has been subject to all forms of ugly murder, including chemical weapons, explosive barrels and death in prisons. Along with Al-Assad’s brutality, the areas under the control of Daesh and other extremist factions have been subject to various forms of murder, similar to that of the regime. It is the 21st century massacre, in the face of which the world is blatantly silent.

Amongst the forgotten Syrians, there are other forgotten people who are suffering the same conditions as the Syrians. They are the Palestinians in Syria who have also suffered greatly in the Syrian holocaust. Just as the Syrian law in 1956 deemed Palestinians and Syrians equal in terms of employment work, and trade during the time of the democratic parliament, Al-Assad has deemed them equal in imprisonment, murder, hunger and the barrage of explosive barrels.

UNRWA’s Syria Emergency Appeal, issued at the beginning of this year, shows how disastrous the situation is for Palestinians living in Syria. The appeal stated: “During 2016 the conflict in Syria has continued with intensity and unpredictability, resulting in further loss of civilian life and material destruction.”

Of the estimated 450,000 Palestine refugees that remain inside Syria, over 95 per cent (430,000) are in critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance in order to survive. Almost 280,000 are internally displaced, and an estimated 43,000 are trapped in hard-to-reach or inaccessible locations such as Yarmouk, Khan Eshieh, and Muzeireb and Jillin in Dera’a.

Delivering vital assistance and services to Palestine refugees remains a major challenge for the agency. Over 120,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) have fled the country, including around 31,000 to Lebanon and 16,000 to Jordan. Many PRS in Lebanon and Jordan have been pushed into a precarious and marginalised existence due to their uncertain legal status and face limited social protection, making them heavily reliant on UNRWA for their basic needs.

Read: 1,600 cases of enforced disappearance among Palestinians in Syria

“In 2017 UNRWA requires $411 million for its humanitarian response to the Syria crisis. This response will be guided by the following three strategic priorities: Strategic Priority 1: To preserve resilience through the provision of humanitarian assistance in the form of cash, food and relief items. Strategic Priority 2: To provide a protective framework for Palestine refugees through helping mitigate their vulnerability by maintaining access to basic services including education; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); and livelihoods and promoting respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). Strategic Priority 3: To strengthen humanitarian capacity, coordination and management to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency programme delivery.”

What UNRWA did not mention is what caused the Palestinians in Syria to suffer under such conditions, but it is something understood. For as long as UNRWA has been operating in the Syrian territories, it has not talked about the brutal oppressive measures taken by the Syrian regime. Therefore, the appeal did not mention the Palestinian prisoners, the exact number of which no one knows (they are estimated at about 13,000, 700 of whom were killed).

Read: Syrian regime key to Palestine

The appeal also fails to mention the policy of forced displacement adopted by the regime against the Palestinians, as well as the Syrians. The regime has not allowed any of the inhabitants of the Al-Sabinah refugee camp or the Hussainya Camp back to their homes, despite the fact that they have been under its control for the past three years. It also hasn’t allowed the Syrian inhabitants of Darayya after it regained complete control of the area. The appeal also didn’t mention the suffocating military siege imposed by the regime, especially on the Yarmouk and Khan Eshieh camps, nor the violent bombing and starvation these camps suffered for years. If these conditions were added to UNRWA’S emergency appeal, we would know exactly what hell the Syrian Palestinians have been living in for the past six years of the raging Syrian holocaust.

#WarInSyria

In addition to this, Syrian Palestinians are prohibited from entering Syria’s neighbouring countries. Therefore, they have no way to escape from the Syrian hell. They are trapped and everyone is denying their right to be a refugee, once again fleeing death. They are not even given the right to be treated like the other Syrian refugees, as they are considered to be surplus. They are not equal to the Syrian refugee, even in their misery and displacement. Lebanon was the last country in the surrounding area, and even in the world, that allowed Palestinians to enter it without complicated procedures; they don’t enter as refugees, but tourists. However, it was the only escape or portal to escape death that fortunate Palestinians could resort to, as the less fortunate Palestinians in Syria’s Palestinians refugee camps don’t even have the luxury of living in the miserable Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Now, even this portal has been closed to the Palestinians for over two years.

The Palestinians suffered their greatest wound from the PLO, which is considered their legitimate representative. The PA in Ramallah does not want to see the Palestinian tragedy in Syria because it doesn’t want to see the Syrian tragedy itself, and therefore it sided with the regime. This was a stab in the back of the Palestinians in Syria by their legitimate representative, which considered the fact that it stood with the regime an exemption from siding with its people (that is if they even consider them its people). The aid provided by the PLO to the Palestinians in Syria is shameful and was given within the context of shame and humiliation of the people by people who are, at the very least, considered degenerates and spies for the Syrian intelligence.

It seems that the fate of the Palestinians in Syria is the same as the Syrians’ fate. They are destined to be murdered, humiliated and displaced in the face of immoral global silence and the face of the disgraceful silence of the PLO and the supposed representative of the Palestinians. In light of everyone’s silence, the Palestinians are rotting in the Syrian hell, alongside their Syrian brothers.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 3 August 2017.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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