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Syria's support for Palestine: Manipulation for personal gain

April 19, 2023 at 2:09 pm

Syrians stage a protest against Israeli raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque after performing the third Friday prayer of holy Islamic fasting month of Ramadan in Azaz district of Aleppo, Syria on April 07, 2023 [Bekir Kasim – Anadolu Agency]

The Syrian regime has historically used the Palestinian cause to advance its own political interests and agenda in the region. For many years, Damascus has positioned itself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, portraying itself as a defender of the rights of the Palestinian people and their struggle against the Israeli occupation. This has allowed the Syrian regime to build credibility and support among Arab and Muslim populations, and to position itself as a leader in the regional struggle against Israel.

The regime has sought to use the Palestinian cause as a means of deflecting attention away from its own internal problems and human rights abuses.

The Syrian regime has also sought to use the Palestinian cause as a bargaining chip in its relations with other countries in the region and the international community. By leveraging its support for the Palestinian cause, the Syrian regime has sought to gain concessions or support from other countries on issues such as sanctions, diplomatic recognition, or military aid.

The relationship between the Syrian regime and Palestinian leaders has been complex and often contentious. While both share a common interest in the Palestinian cause, their respective political agendas and priorities have, at times, brought them into conflict.

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Historically, Syria has been a key supporter of Palestinian resistance groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, providing them with political and military support. However, this support has not always been welcomed by Palestinian leaders, particularly those affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA), who have sought to maintain a diplomatic approach to the conflict with Israel.

The Syrian regime has been accused of undermining the PA’s efforts to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel by supporting more hardline Palestinian groups and rejecting the notion of a two-state solution.

At home however, the regime has gone into conflict with its Palestinian population. In 1983, for example, the Syrian regime brutally suppressed a rebellion by Palestinian factions in the city of Hama, killing thousands of people. This led to a significant deterioration in relations between the two sides, which took many years to recover.

More recently in 2015, the years-long siege of Yarmouk, a district of Damascus that is home to Syria’s largest community of Palestinians, starved the area and left scores dead.

While the Syrian regime and Palestinian leaders share a common interest in the Palestinian cause, their respective political agendas and strategies have often brought them into conflict, with each seeking to benefit from the plight of Palestinians.

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