[Marxism] Syrian Airstrike Kills Palestinian Refugees

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 16 14:29:06 MST 2012


NY Times December 16, 2012
Syrian Airstrike Kills Palestinian Refugees
By AN EMPLOYEE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES and ANNE BARNARD

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian government forces for the first time hit the 
country’s largest Palestinian refugee neighborhood with airstrikes on 
Sunday, killing at least eight people in the Yarmouk district of 
Damascus and reportedly driving dozens of formerly pro-government 
Palestinian fighters to defect to the rebels.

New signs emerged on Sunday of political pressure on President Bashar 
al-Assad. Mr. Assad’s vice president was quoted as saying neither side 
could win the war and calling for “new partners” in a unity government, 
a possible sign that at least some in the government were exploring new 
ways out of the crisis. The comments came as two close allies, the 
government of Iran and the leader of the Lebanese Shiite group 
Hezbollah, appeared to slightly temper their support.

In Yarmouk, flesh stuck to the walls and burned body parts littered the 
ground at the Sheik Abdul Qader mosque, which had offered shelter to 
Palestinians and others displaced by fighting in other areas. Minutes 
before, a reporter saw a Syrian fighter jet fire rockets at the camp. 
Women, crying children and white-bearded men thronged the streets with 
hurriedly packed bags, not sure where to look for safety.

For many Yarmouk residents — refugees from conflict with Israel and 
their descendants — the attacks shattered what was left of the Syrian 
government’s claim to be a champion and protector of Palestinians, a 
position that the Assad family relied upon as a source of domestic and 
international legitimacy during more than 40 years of iron-fisted rule.

“For decades the Assad regime was talking about the Palestinians’ 
rights,” said a Palestinian refugee who gave his name as Abu Ammar as he 
debated whether to flee with his wife and five children from the camp, 
on the southern edge of Damascus. “But Bashar al-Assad has killed more 
of us today than Israel did in its latest war on Gaza.”

He added: “What does Bashar expect from us after today? All of us will 
be Free Syrian Army fighters.”

The Palestinian militant group and political party Hamas has broken with 
Mr. Assad over his crackdown on what began as a peaceful protest 
movement, and while most Palestinian parties still profess neutrality, a 
growing number of Palestinians support — and have even joined — the rebels.

The Syrian government long held the loyalty of hundreds of thousands of 
Palestinian refugees, giving them health care, education, and access to 
professional careers, among other rights denied by other Arab host 
countries. But those policies also gave Palestinians a stake and sense 
of belonging in Syria that has led many to join the uprising.

Several of Mr. Assad’s allies signaled a new push for a peaceful 
solution. Iran’s Foreign Ministry called for an end to military action, 
the release of political prisoners and a broad-based dialogue to form a 
transitional government that would hold free elections, Iran’s state 
news agency reported.

Mr. Assad’s vice president, Farouk al-Shara, said that neither the 
government nor the rebels could end the conflict militarily, the 
pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported. And he called for a 
solution involving a cease-fire and brokered by international leaders 
that would establish a “national unity government with wide powers.”

He added that the battle was for the country’s very existence, not “the 
survival of an individual or a regime,” and that Syria’s leaders “cannot 
achieve change without new partners.”

The impact of the statements was unclear. Mr. Shara, a Sunni Muslim like 
most of the rebels, has been floated by the Arab League as a possible 
successor, but many of Mr. Assad’s opponents reject any dealings with 
leaders of the current government.

In neighboring Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, 
appeared to acknowledge for the first time that the Syrian uprising is 
at least in part driven by popular sentiment.

“Today, in Syria,” he said in a videotaped address at a graduation 
ceremony, “there is a big part of the population with the Syrian regime 
and a part against it, and the latter armed themselves to fight the regime.”

But Mr. Nasrallah declared that armed rebellion would never resolve the 
conflict, and he deplored the killing of civilians by opposition groups, 
especially in rush-hour car bombings in places like Jaramana in southern 
Damascus. “Are the people of Jaramana Syrians?” he asked.

He blamed the United States and its allies for supporting the rebels’ 
refusal to negotiate with Mr. Assad, saying the West wanted a long 
conflict to produce “a weak, destroyed Syria that can no longer play a 
role in the international balance.”

The director of public relations for Syria’s intelligence service, 
Alaaeldin al-Sabagh, announced his defection in a video posted online, 
saying he had been working with rebels all along.

He called on intelligence officers, ministers, diplomats and military 
attachés, “whom I taught and who know me very well,” to join the revolution.

“There is no time left to wait,” he said. “The Syrian revolution opens 
its doors to everyone before the fall of the regime in a complete 
manner. For this regime, today, is clinically dead, and all that is left 
is to disconnect the machines.”

Fighting continued in the northern city of Aleppo, where, after 
declaring they controlled the infantry college in the north of the city, 
rebels attacked a military academy.

In Yarmouk, which despite being called a refugee camp is a thriving 
neighborhood with a mixed Syrian and Palestinian population, rebel 
fighters said they had attacked the area to stop pro-Assad Palestinians 
who have used the camp to attack rebels in neighboring suburbs.

A man leading dozens of fighters, who gave his name as Abu Omar, 40, 
said that controlling Yarmouk would link rebel-held areas in the east 
and south of Damascus.

Early in the conflict, Palestinians implored both sides to keep fighting 
out of their areas so they could remain neutral and shelter the 
displaced, to little avail. Yarmouk has been shelled, and its residents 
killed, many times by both sides.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, a 
pro-Assad group, has fought for the government from its many 
headquarters around the city, several of which have been overrun by 
rebels in recent weeks. Its leader, Ahmed Jibril, was said to have fled 
to the Syrian coast or to Iran.

One of his fighters, who gave a pseudonym, Abu Jihad, said he and dozens 
of others had joined the rebels on Sunday. He said they had been manning 
checkpoints ostensibly to protect the camps, but had been asked to fight 
rebels instead.

“I felt that we became soldiers for the Assad regime, not guards for the 
camps, so, I decided to defect,” he said, adding that security forces 
stood by and watched as they fought the rebels, without supporting them.

“I felt that the regime doesn’t care about us,” he said. “Now I am 
fighting with the right side. We are hosted by the Syrian people, not 
the Assad regime, when we came to this country in 1948, and we should 
reward this favor.”

An employee of The New York Times reported from Damascus, and Anne 
Barnard from Beirut. Hania Mourtada contributed reporting from Beirut, 
and Hala Droubi from Dubai.




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