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Back Middle East Al-Assad's blockade...from Tel Zaatar to Yarmouk‬‬‬‬‬

Al-Assad's blockade...from Tel Zaatar to Yarmouk‬‬‬‬‬

Marah Al-Baqa'i‬‬‬‬‬"The situation in Syria has reached the point to where we are now transferring blood from person to person, from those who have died to those who are in need, without even testing to see if the blood types are compatible. The transfer of blood goes directly from person to person by using large 60 millilitre syringes because the bags that are necessary for preserving blood are no longer available."‬‬‬‬‬

‪This was a statement that was released by a statistics centre in Syria and allegedly came from one of the nurses that is working in the Yarmouk refugee camp, otherwise known as the camp of death. There is currently only one hospital that is capable of receiving the ill and wounded and that is the Falasteen clinic. The clinic only has one doctor on call and he is in fact a medical student who has yet to finish his studies. The Al-Assad regime has targeted and destroyed all of the Yarmouk refugee camp's hospitals and clinics and the majority of its doctors have been assassinated or targeted directly for agreeing to treat and care for the dying and wounded members of the opposition.‬‬‬‬‬

‪The blockade that is being enforced by Al-Assad's regime on the camp, which ranges from launching rockets and shelling, to dropping chemical rain from airplanes and preventing food and medicine from entering the camp for an entire year, has become a war crime that threaten all citizens including the ones residing in their homes. ‬‬

How is it possible that we are discussing a Palestinian refugee camp that the Syrian government swore to protect? The Syrian government is obligated to care for and protect this camp under the basic regulations of international law and with an agreement with UNRWA, the UN based organisation that was founded specifically in order to meet the needs of Palestinian refugees. ‬‬‬

Geneva truce

The first Geneva conference's main clause demanded that the regime lift the siege off civilians and open the doors so that food and other staples could be delivered. Yet, we do not find that there is a significant amount of international pressure being placed on the regime despite the fact that this clause, which was issued under the title "Responsibility of Protecting Civilians", is a principle that was endorsed by the General Assembly to the UN in 1995. Both ambassadors to the UN and members of the Arab League have failed to implement this basic principle, which is now nothing more than ink on paper, starting with Kofi Anan's initiative leading to Geneva II.

The Geneva II conference was held after international powers put immense pressure on the Syrian opposition to attend. The United States and a number of European powers believed that they could convince Al-Assad's regime to comply with the basic tenants of the first Geneva conference, although it did not comply with it after signing.

At the forefront of the demands that the opposition placed on the table was to lift the siege on areas controlled by the opposition in Homs. In fact, the opposition's success on this point is considered one of the greatest breakthroughs of Geneva II.

United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi proposed a humanitarian truce be implemented so that supplies could reach individuals caught in the conflict's hot zones in the old part of Homs, where they are in need of food, clothing and medical services after more than a year of being under siege. Al-Assad's regime was quick to accept this proposal because it saw that this was an international outlet through which it would be able to deal directly with the United Nations and it also provided the perfect opportunity to isolate the opposition via an agreement it made with UNRWA.

The regime agreed to this demand in the negotiations for the sole purpose of meeting its objectives. The truce allowed the regime to gain access to conflict zones in Homs and subsequently detain and interrogate wanted members of the opposition. Food and medical supplies were not allowed into these conflict areas and the United Nations wasn't granted access to these regions. Instead, the regime was able to wreak havoc on and intimidate its helpless civilians. It is in this way that the regime sought to take advantage of the opposition's position and use it to its benefit.

Yarmouk between the jaws of death

Under the influence of this form of retaliation came the regime's decision to lift the siege off the Yarmouk refugee camp so that it would appear as a continuation of its path towards a regional truth. In reality, this step is part of the regime's greater sense of selective racism, which is accompanied by violence and abuses directed towards anyone who deviates from the regime's siege. Many of those who defy the regime are detained and questioned under conditions which do not generally meet the fundamental basics of human rights and civilian rights under conditions of war.

The Al-Assad regime, backed by armed Palestinian militias, was able to provide citizens in the conflict zones with a temporary sense of security and it was in this way that it was able to gain control of areas that had previously been outside of its control. The regime then prevented food and basic medical supplies from entering the camp. Members of the Palestinian militias dispersed among civilians in Damascus and its outskirts. It came as a surprise to many to see that these groups were armed with sophisticated weapons!

The Al-Assad regime, which credits itself as the "patron of all resistance and revolutionaries", has prohibited the Palestinian people from carrying any type of weapons on Syrian soil. Even a kitchen knife is viewed as a dangerous weapon in a Palestinian's hand.

The father's legacy

This type of racial opportunism was not born from Bashar Al-Assad's regime. On the contrary, this heavy legacy was inherited from the godfather of sectarian killings and collective punishment, Hafez Al-Assad, the father of the current president.

The current siege on the Yarmouk refugee camp is a historical reiteration of the siege on the Tel El-Zataar in Beirut at a time when Syrian forces controlled Lebanon in two ways: formally, through the government, and by fuelling sectarian conflict.

At the end of June 1976, Syrian forces aligned themselves with extreme Christian sects of the time, as they cooperated to impose a frightening siege on Tel El-Zataar, a Palestinian refugee camp. The blockade lasted two months and the camp, which was home to 20,000 Palestinians and 15,000 Lebanese, were subject to violence and collective punishment. During this time, food and other basic supplies were prohibited from entering the camp. Approximately 5,500 shells fell atop the heads of civilians and the Red Cross was strictly prohibited from entering the premises.

On the night of August 14, 1976, Hafez Al-Assad's forces stormed the camp, which had been weakened by hunger, fear and fatigue and they committed one of the most grotesque massacres that claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Palestinians who fell victim to systematic violence. These militias marched under the guise of the Syrian government. They committed unfathomable crimes such as slitting the stomachs of pregnant women, massacring children and the elderly, as well as committing sexual assaults and looting.

During this same period, Jisser Al-Basha and Al-Kalantina, two other Palestinian camps also fell to the regime. Silence and death befell the city and the world watched in horror as international media broadcast images of the massacre that took place at the hands of Hafez Al-Assad.

International observers including historian Israel Shahak, who is known for his harsh criticism of the Israeli government, documented the massacres and as such, he is often accused of being anti-Semitic. Shahak wrote that Syrian forces carried out this massacre with the full support of Israel and a number of American parties.

On the brink of death

On March 3, 2014, Al-Jazeera aired a live news bulletin from the Yarmouk refugee camp. It depicted one of the most traumatic scenes to ever be viewed on a television screen: a man was seen as he was screaming and begging for Israel to save him from the jaws of the Al-Assad regime.

"I am sick! I need medicine...take me to the Jews," he called.

This history lesson shows us that the prodigal son has restored the legacy of his tyrant father. This lesson is unique to the Syrian people alone because the country's own government subjects its people to violence and extremism.

Translated form Al Jazeera net, 29 March 2014


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