The Real Conspiracy

By Jonathan Cook

June 15, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Israeli and US officials are in the process of jointly pre-empting Donald Trump’s supposed “ultimate deal” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They hope to demote the Palestinian issue to a footnote in international diplomacy.

The conspiracy – a real one – was much in evidence last week during a visit to the region by Nikki Haley, Washington’s envoy to the United Nations. Her escort was Danny Danon, her Israeli counterpart and a fervent opponent of Palestinian statehood.

Mr Danon makes Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu look moderate. He has backed Israel annexing the West Bank and ruling over Palestinians apatheid-style. Ms Haley appears unperturbed. During a meeting with Mr Netanyahu, she told him that the UN was “a bully to Israel”. She has warned the powerful Security Council to focus on Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah, instead of Israel.

To protect its tiny ally, Washington is threatening to cut billions in US funding to the world body, plunging it into crisis and jeopardising peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

On the way to Israel, Ms Haley stopped at the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, demanding it end its “pathological” opposition to Israel’s decades of occupation and human rights violations – or the US would pull out of the agency.

Washington has long pampered Israel, giving it millions of dollars each year to buy weapons to oppress Palestinians, and using its veto to block UN resolutions enforcing international law. Expert UN reports such as a recent one on Israel’s apartheid rule over Palestinians have been buried.

But worse is to come. Now the framework of international laws and institutions established after the Second World War is at risk of being dismembered.

That danger was highlighted on Sunday, when it emerged that Mr Netanyahu had urged Ms Haley to dismantle another UN agency much loathed by Israel. UNRWA cares for more than five million Palestinian refugees across the region.

Since the 1948 war, Israel has refused to allow these refugees to return to their lands, now in Israel, forcing them to live in miserable and overcrowded camps awaiting a peace deal that never arrives. These dispossessed Palestinians still depend on UNRWA for education, health care and social services.

UNRWA, Mr Netanyahu says, “perpetuates” rather than solves their problems. He prefers that they become the responsibility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which looks after all other refugee populations.

His demand is a monumental U-turn, 70 years in the making. In fact, it was Israel that in 1948 insisted on a separate UN refugee agency for the Palestinians.

UNRWA was created to prevent the Palestinians falling under the charge of UNHCR’s forerunner, the International Refugee Organisation. Israel was afraid that the IRO, formed in the immediate wake of the Second World War, would give Palestinian refugees the same prominence as European Jews fleeing Nazi atrocities.

Israel did not want the two cases compared, especially as they were so intimately connected. It was the rise of Nazism that bolstered the Zionist case for a Jewish state in Palestine, and Jewish refugees who were settled on lands from which Palestinians had just been expelled by Israel.

Also, Israel was concerned that the IRO’s commitment to the principle of repatriation might force it to accept back the Palestinian refugees.

Israel’s hope then was precisely that UNRWA would not solve the Palestinian refugee problem; rather, it would resolve itself. The idea was encapsulated in a Zionist adage: “The old will die and the young forget.”

But millions of Palestinian descendants still clamour for a right of return. If they cannot forget, Mr Netanyahu prefers that the world forget them.

As bloody wars grip the Middle East, the best way to achieve that aim is to submerge the Palestinians among the world’s 65 million other refugees. Why worry about the Palestinian case when there are millions of Syrians newly displaced by war?

But UNRWA poses a challenge, because it is so deeply entrenched in the region and insists on a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA’s huge staff includes 32,000 Palestinian administrators, teachers and doctors, many living in camps in the West Bank – Palestinian territory Mr Netanyahu and Mr Danon hunger for. The UN’s presence there is an impediment to annexation.

On Monday Mr Netanyahu announced his determination to block Europe from funding Israeli human rights organisations, the main watchdogs in the West Bank and a key data source for UN agencies. He now refuses to meet any world leader who talks to these rights groups.

With Mr Trump in the White House, a crisis-plagued Europe ever-more toothless and the Arab world in disarray, Mr Netanyahu wants to seize this chance to clear the UN out of the way too.

Global institutions such as the UN and the international law it upholds were created after the Second World War to protect the weakest and prevent a recurrence of the Holocaust’s horrors.

Today, Mr Netanyahu is prepared to risk it all, tearing down the post-war international order, if this act of colossal vandalism will finally rid him of the Palestinians.

Jonathan Cook is a Nazareth- based journalist and winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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UNRWA: israel is severely impeding Gaza reconstruction

UNRWA: Israel is severely impeding Gaza reconstruction

Palestine Information Center – October 17, 2016

Director of UNRWA Operations (DUO) in Gaza, Bo Schack, on Monday warned that the Israeli authorities are severely impeding Gaza reconstruction.
In a press conference held in Gaza, Schack said that UNRWA has delivered to Israel requests for the reconstruction of 400 homes in Gaza Strip; however, it has not yet received the requested approvals.
UNRWA is making great efforts to solve this problem, he said, warning of the serious humanitarian conditions in the besieged Gaza Strip.
He also warned of the serious implications of the continued Israeli blockade on Gaza Strip.
UNRWA is still facing a budget deficit of $70 million, he stressed, pointing out that ongoing efforts are made to overcome the agency’s financial crisis.
Nearly 400 teachers were employed while 24 new schools were built since the beginning of the year, according to his statements.
The UN official said that UNRWA relief programs are still continuing, denouncing Israeli restrictions on Palestinian economy and development process.
He called for lifting the siege on Gaza and supplying Gaza with electricity, water, and fuel.

‘Aleppo’s hell is better than this’: The Syrians who want out of Gaza


Refugees, including some of Palestinian descent, say life in besieged enclave is worse than war, and they dream of returning to Yarmouk

Syrian refugee Shahrszaad Alahmed said that her husband had been killed in the war (Mohammed Asad)
Mohammed Omer's picture
Last update:
Thursday 10 March 2016 15:15 UTC

GAZA CITY – Refugees from Syria in Gaza are protesting to be allowed to leave, with some even saying they want to return home because conditions in the besieged Palestinian territory are so intolerable.

Gaza is currently home to an estimated 1,200 refugees who are mainly from Syria but include others from Libya and Yemen. Most of them arrived through now-demolished tunnels that once linked the enclave to Egypt.

Many say they were drawn there by promises of jobs, or in the hope of starting their own businesses, despite the challenges posed by Gaza’s near-decade-long blockade by Israel and Egypt.

Some of them have Palestinian backgrounds and come from the refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of the Syrian capital Damascus, which is home to the descendants of families displaced from their lands in modern-day Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in 1948 or during the Six Day War of 1967 between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Yarmouk has been the scene of regular fierce fighting between pro-government forces and rebels during Syria’s five-year war and was briefly captured by the Islamic State (IS) group last year.

Last year, the UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, said that several thousand people in Yarmouk were living in “deeply abject conditions” and that the situation there was worse than in 2014 when the UN considered the camp to be a besieged area.

But Abdullah Salman, who said he and others had been enticed to Gaza by an offer of work after fleeing from Syria to Egypt, told Middle East Eye that conditions even in war-ravaged Yamouk were preferable to life under the blockade.

“Our suffering intensifies every day. We are four families living in one house,” said Salman, who went to Gaza believing there would be more opportunities than in Egypt, where many other Syrians are also looking for work.

“We were offered work for six months but we’ve only been paid for two months, so we are still waiting for our rights.”

Last Friday, Syrians gathered in Gaza City’s al-Saraya square to call for their rights as refugees to be recognised and for better living conditions.

A white-bearded man of Palestinian origin but born in Syria held a sign reading: “We dreamt of returning to Palestine, but now we dream of returning to Yarmouk.”

One child waved a banner reading: “I am a Palestinian child, don’t deprive me of a loaf of bread,” while another child’s banner said: “Our dignity is your dignity, don’t let it be ruined.”

Refugee children from Syria were entertained by clowns during the protest (Mohammed Asad)

Most Gazans face daily shortages and hardships caused by both the blockade and the political stalemate between Gaza’s Hamas-run administration and a Palestinian unity government put in place by a deal between Hamas and Fatah, which runs the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, in 2014.

But Syrians complain that their lack of official status is making their plight worse, and even that the hospitality historically afforded to previous generations of Palestinians fleeing to Syria was not being reciprocated.

“Nothing forced us to come to Gaza, except the tough conditions we were living under, but we are living in Gaza without even minimum rights – and some of us are living breadless,” Abeer Rajeh told MEE.

Holding up a sign that read “The right to live and work is guaranteed by law,” she said that in most countries a wife had a right to be reunited with her family, but not in Gaza.

“We are unable to obtain Palestinian nationality, we fled our homes in Syria and all we have left are the streets to live on,” she said.

“Many of the Palestinian youth have lived in Syria and we hosted them in our homes, and now all we ask is to be treated decently, or at least that they repay the debt of kindness,” she added.

Manal Qurbash, another refugee, said: “Every day we suffer the same as the day before. In Gaza there is no prospect of a decent life, no basic rights – why are we being treated this way?”

Some admit too that the trauma of enduring Israel’s assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014 was far worse than anything they had experienced before leaving Syria.

They fear that deteriorating relations between Hamas and Egypt could also leave them stranded in the event of another war with Israel.

Leaving Gaza via the route they arrived has already become virtually impossible after Egypt destroyed dozens of tunnels last year and tightened up border security.

“We dreamt of returning to Palestine but now we dream of returning to Yarmouk” (Mohammed Asad)

Rajeha al-Ali told MEE that she had left Syria, first for Lebanon and then Turkey, with her husband and three children in 2011.

“We fled Syria to Lebanon, but it was not good, then we fled into Turkey, but were placed in cold tents. Then, we heard that Gaza offers jobs and apartments, but that was not the case when we got here,” Ali said.

“No one is listening to us, our pleas fall on deaf ears.”

Ali said she had been unable to obtain vital medication for two of her children’s chronic asthma. And having survived Gaza’s 2014 war, she said she did not want her children to suffer the same experience again.

“My family are still in Aleppo under siege, but their hell is better than Gaza’s paradise,” she said.

Officials in Gaza insist that the Syrians are being hosted as brothers and sisters. A YouTube video last month showing the Gazan children being told that one million Syrians were coming to Gaza also suggested a warm welcome awaited them – even though the number was rhetorical to gauge their reaction.

“I am willing to welcome them in my house,” said one boy. “I will sleep down on the mattress and a child can take my bed.”

At Gaza’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Ali al-Khateeb, the head of family rehabilitation, told MEE that the ministry was working hard to help the Syrian families.

“We have put in place a programme and an emergency plan to deal with the refugee families in order for us provide them with whatever aid and money that we can put together,” Khateeb said.

He said that despite the blockade the authorities had been able to provide each family with up to $350 as well as with some furniture and rent subsidies paid every three months.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told MEE that 848 Syrian refugees had registered at the organisation’s office in Gaza up to January this year.

He said they were eligible to the same rights as other refugees and could send their children to UNRWA schools or attend its medical clinics and use its relief and social services.

“It speaks volumes about the sheer hopelessness of life under the illegal blockade in Gaza and the inability of people to believe in a dignified, stable and prosperous future that anyone would feel that life in Yarmouk was preferable,” Gunness said.

“The UN Secretary General described Yarmouk as like a death camp. What does it tell us about life in Gaza that people would want to leave it and go to Yarmouk? This is why we demand that whether in Gaza or Syria, the underlying causes of the conflict must be addressed so that the Palestinians, like all civilians, can live in dignity.”

Still, for a few Syrians the move to Gaza has been proved good for business.

Wafir Hamedo left Aleppo for Turkey in 2012 before making his way to Egypt and then into Gaza via the tunnels.

Once there, he set up the Syriana restaurant, creating a community hub and meeting place for Gaza’s small Syrian diaspora.

“Many Syrians come here to eat Syrian food, but others come to discuss politics and the situation in their country,” he told MEE.

Yahya al-Sayed (L) and Rajha al-Ali live in a bare apartment with their four children (Mohammed Asad)

Yet for many people, the question of whether they can afford to eat at all, let alone dine out in a restaurant, is of more pressing concern.

Escalating housing costs for all Gazans fuelled by the destruction caused by the 2014 war have also left some struggling to pay their rent.

Yahya al-Sayed, and his wife Rajha al-Ali, told MEE that they lived in a furniture-less room apartment in Gaza City with their four children.

The couple said they were already 2,000 NIS ($510) in arrears and did not know how they were going to hang on to their home.

“We want to go anywhere to get out of here, even if it’s back to Syria,” said Sayed.

“We have survived their dreadful war, survived their blockade and now nothing is left for us here. We appeal to the United Nations to look into our issue and find us a home somewhere else.”

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Four Facts You Might Not Know about Housing Demolitions by israel

Photo: Annie Slemrod/IRIN

A young Bedouin protests the demolition of his home in the Negev


By Annie Slemrod

The small Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has been drawn into the international spotlight this week, as the US, the UK and the EU condemned plans by the Israeli army to demolish it. The US State Department said its destruction would be “harmful and provocative.”

So far the Israeli government has shown no sign it will back off, and activists and locals are sleeping in structures in the village in case the bulldozers come.

Susiya, which sits in an Israeli army controlled section of the West Bank called Area C, is set for demolition because it lacks the building permissions that are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

The villagers of Susiya are far from the only Palestinians whose homes face imminent destruction. Here are some facts about demolition in Israel and the occupied West Bank that you might not know:

More than One Type of Demolition

Buildings can be destroyed for both “administrative” and “punitive” reasons.

Susiya is in trouble because it doesn’t meet planning requirements, and so faces “administrative” demolition. This is the case for most homes that are razed in the West Bank, including the majority of those in Area C.

For example, the Israeli army has demolished 243 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and annexed East Jerusalem so far this year because they were deemed to have been built illegally (without the correct permissions) – 39 of these were in East Jerusalem. The total number of similar demolitions for the same area in 2014 was 493.

But Israel also conducts “punitive” demolitions, bulldozing the homes of Palestinians involved in attacks on Israeli civilians. According to statistics from the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, 664 homes were destroyed as punishment between October 2001 and the end of 2004. The punitive demolitions were meant to be a deterrent, but a 2005 military committee found that they didn’t serve the intended purpose and were of questionable legality.

Ongoing Problem

Despite international condemnation, the number of buildings destroyed has remained around 600 a year.

The practice was halted until last year, when Israel demolished four homes and sealed one off. The buildings belonged to the families of men suspected of abducting and killing three Israeli teenagers who were hitchhiking in the West Bank. According to B’Tselem, the demolitions left 27 people homeless, including 13 minors.

This year, no punitive demolitions have taken place, but earlier this month Israel evacuated and sealed off the East Jerusalem family home of a man who took part in an attack on a synagogue that killed four worshippers and a police officer. The attacker had also been killed during the incident in the autumn of 2014.

Demolition Happens Inside Israel Too

Administrative demolitions take place inside Israel too, mostly in Bedouin villages not recognised by the state. According to a recent report commissioned by Israel’s public security ministry, this type of destruction is one the rise. In 2013, 697 Bedouin structures were evacuated or torn down in 2013. In 2014, the number rose to 1,073.

The Bedouin residents of Umm al-Hiran, in the southern Negev desert, are the latest villagers of this sort to get attention for their plight. The Israeli government plans to build a new Jewish town on the state land where the Bedouin have lived for 60 years, and after more than a decade of legal battles there seems to be little that can be done to stop it.

The state says it has set aside space for the residents of Umm al-Hiran, who are Israeli citizens, in a nearby Bedouin town. Most villagers refuse this option.

Jewish Settlements Can also Be Targeted

Jewish settlements in Area C are also subject to demolition. Settlers in the West Bank are under a different planning regime than Palestinians, and it is significantly easier for them to build legally. But extensions to Jewish settlements called “outposts” often spring up without government sanction and these can be condemned to come down.

However, demolition orders are both handed down and carried out at an unequal rate, according to government figures acquired by freedom of information requests by settlement researcher and activist Dror Etkes.

Since 1988, the state of Israel has issued 14,782 demolition orders for Palestinian structures and less than half that number, 7,091, for Jewish ones, the figures say.

To make that disparity worse, 14.2 percent of Palestinian structures with demolition orders are actually taken down, opposed to just 6.5 percent of Jewish structures.

A Dual System

Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank have been issued more than double the demolition orders of Jewish settlements, with twice the percentage of those orders carried out for Palestinians.

It’s Not Just about Bricks and Mortar

The UN’s aid coordination body, OCHA, says 280 Palestinians have been left homeless by the 243 demolitions that have taken place this year. Six Palestinians have been displaced this week alone.

The humanitarian impact of Israel’s demolition campaign is far-reaching. According to OCHA and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, housing demolition leads to a significant deterioration in living conditions for affected families. It can cut off those affected from access to clean water, education, sanitation, and other basic services. In Susiya, there is a concern that the solar panels that generate a limited amount of electricity for the village will be demolished, eliminating the villagers’ only source of power.

A 2009 report on home demolition in the West Bank by UK charity Save the Children found that it is extremely difficult for families to bounce back after being uprooted. More then half the families it surveyed took at least two years to find a permanent place to stay.

Children are hit particularly hard. Kids whose homes are destroyed are more likely to suffer a range of mental health problems including depression and anxiety, or fall into delinquency and exhibit violent behaviour.

Save the Children also singled out the mental state of parents as a cause for concern, while OCHA noted that “the impact on families’ psychosocial well-being can be devastating.”


Israel Aids Nepalese Victims, Blocks Gaza Reconstruction

by Stephen Lendman

Israel and America give double standard hypocrisy new meaning. Washington wages endless direct and proxy wars of aggression claiming humanitarian intervention.
Israeli occupation harshness is nearly seven decades old. Besieged Gazans suffer most – preemptively attacked by land, sea and air at Israel’s discretion, isolated in the world’s largest open-air prison.
Last summer’s genocidal war left large parts of Gaza in ruins – besides committing mass murder, including willfully massacring mostly noncombatant men, women, children, infants and the elderly.
According to UNRWA, “(n)ot a single home has been rebuilt” – eight months after Israel’s genocidal war ended.
UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness reports “(t)o date, 9,161 Palestinian refugee houses have been considered totally destroyed and 5,066 have suffered severe (damage), 4,085 major (damage), an 124,792 minor damages.”
To date, UNWRA received “funding to reconstruct (only) 200 of the 9,161 houses totally destroyed.”
According to Metal and Engineering Industries Union vice president Muhammad Hamad, Israel blocks 85% of needed construction equipment and metal materials from entering Gaza.
In early March, Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement executive director Eitan Diamond said:
“Six months after the fighting, not a single house destroyed during the last round of hostilities has been rebuilt.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless and living in tents. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed.”
Gaza’s economy is in ruins. Its 1.8 million people are suffering hugely – ruthless Israeli collective punishment according to unenforced international law.
Gisha spokesperson Shai Grunberg said “Gaza’s population needs an economic future.” Israel’s illegal siege must end.
“Merchants and business people must be allowed to exit Gaza in order to revive business connections and make new ones, sign deals, reconnect with the markets, and rebuild factories.”
“Young people must be allowed to get an education and reunite with family. The restrictions on the passage of goods must be lifted” straightaway.
Israel systematically refuses – even after pledging during last year’s Cairo peace talks to do so.
Following Nepal’s devastating April 25 earthquake, the region’s worst in 80 years, Israel sent 260 IDF medical and military personnel to Kathmandu – double standard hypocrisy and then some.
Its team set up a field hospital with 60 beds. On Wednesday, it began operations in coordination with Kathmandu’s army hospital.
Around 2,000 Israelis were in Nepal when disaster struck. Dozens of backpackers were stranded. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said only one of its nationals remains unaccounted for. Four planes and helicopters airlifted Israelis out.
No Israeli relief money was sent. Washington sent a paltry $10 million. Israel sent a large rescue team over 3,000 miles allegedly to help its nationals and Nepalese victims in need.
Israeli media touted its mission irresponsibly. A Hebrew University study “rank(ed) (Israel) near the bottom among leading free-market economies in providing foreign aid to developing nations.”
Washington fares no better. It’s so-called foreign aid is largely military-related benefitting its own agenda.
Israel’s so-called disaster relief combines self-promotion propaganda with exploiting local populations.
Its aid mission to Haiti following its January 2010 devastating earthquake was accused of organ trafficking.
In November 2009, Alison Weir reported on Israeli organ trafficking and theft from Moldova to Palestine.
She cited an earlier Donald Bostrom’s article in Sweden’s Ftonbladet suggesting Israel’s military illicitly removes removes body parts – including from Palestinians. According to Weir:
“…Israeli organ harvesting – sometimes with Israeli governmental funding and the participation of high Israeli officials, prominent Israeli physicians, and Israeli ministries – has been documented for many years. Among the victims have been Palestinians.”
Medical anthropology/Organ Watch founder Nancy Scheper-Hughes says “Israel is at the top” among nations engaging in organ trafficking.
“It has tentacles reaching out worldwide,” she said. It has a pyramid system at work that’s awesome.”
“They have brokers everywhere, bank accounts everywhere. They’ve got recruiters. They’ve got translators. They’ve got travel agents who set up the visas.”
They pay “the poor and the hungry to slowly dismantle their bodies” or simply take what they want from fresh corpses.”
Body parts are commodities, to be harvested and sold to the rich, even though organ sales are prohibited in most countries, but not under international law.
Is Israel’s Nepal mission more about “rescuing” organs and body parts than helping stranded Israelis and Nepalese victims? It has nothing to do with providing humanitarian aid.
At the same time, it continues ruthlessly persecuting Palestinians – besieged Gazans most of all.
Nepalese victims make daily headlines. Long-suffering Gazans are totally ignored – including Israel’s willful reconstruction blockade.
It’s just a matter of time before its forces smash up more of Gaza – along with murdering and maiming thousands more Palestinians defenseless against its onslaught.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!


by Paul Larudee, Dissident Voice

There are many illusions about what is happening to the Yarmouk district of Damascus and its Palestinian refugee population. The district was originally set aside in 1957 for Palestinian refugees already living there, whom Israel had expelled from their homes in 1948, with periodic additional populations thereafter. Today it is home to around one million Syrians and Palestinians, of whom the Palestinians number roughly 170,000. Palestinians in Syria have all the rights of Syrian citizens except voting, and in Yarmouk their homes are indistinguishable from those of the Syrian residents.

Starting in 2012, armed elements trying to overthrow the Assad government gained a foothold in Yarmouk. Most Palestinians disapproved, since this violated the traditional exchange of Syrian hospitality for Palestinian neutrality. However, there was no consensus among Palestinians to forcibly expel the intruders.

By June, 2013, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) had established a siege on the camp in order to prevent further encroachment toward the center of Damascus, which already receives a daily dose of random mortar attacks. (Three landed just outside my hotel in April, 2014, one killing three people.) Most of the population fled, until only 18,000 remained by October, 2013, according to Fateh leader Abbas Zaki, as reported to Ma’an News. Many thousands are now living outside the camp, in shelter provided by the Syrian government and Syrian humanitarian aid organizations.

In April, 2014 I visited a school that had been converted to living quarters for Yarmouk refugees. The accommodations were immensely crowded and by no means comfortable, a consequence of having to provide for nearly 8 million displaced people in government areas, doubling the normal population for those areas. Nevertheless, food is being provided, as well as education and health services.

Until Daesh (ISIS or the Islamic State) entered the camp on April 1, 2015, the figure of 18,000 residents continued to be reported consistently for the next year and a half despite a siege that cut off electricity and water and reduced the availability of essential food and medical supplies. More than a hundred civilians are reported to have died of starvation or lack of medical treatment during those eighteen months. Who are the remaining civilians and why are they refusing to evacuate to outside shelter like so many others?

Local humanitarian relief supervisors report (personal communication) that some of them are not from Yarmouk and some are not Palestinian. They include the families of Syrian and foreign fighters that are trying to overthrow the Syrian government by force of arms, and some of them came from districts adjacent to Yarmouk, such as the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad. It is hard to know how many are being forcibly prevented from leaving by the armed groups in the camp and how many choose not to leave because they are afraid of the potential consequences.

Some might be considered “human shields”, used by the fighters to deter attacks against them. But they might equally be concerned about becoming “human hostages” if they leave, i.e. of being used to pressure fighters to surrender. The motivations can be complex, but no evidence has been presented to show that the Syrian government is preventing civilians from leaving the camp. In fact, 90% of the population has already left.

Is the Syrian government preventing the distribution of food and medicine in the camp?

Siege is one of the most common military strategies of the SAA. Typically, the army lays siege to an area and prevents food, medicine and of course arms from entering, to the extent possible. On the other hand it welcomes evacuation of civilians, and provides humanitarian aid to those who leave.

The objective is to remove the civilians from the area as much as possible and then attack the enemy or provoke surrender, sometimes with amnesty as an inducement. This is classic military strategy, though hard on the civilians, as usual.

In the case of Yarmouk, there is another dimension to the siege. The Syrian government has a long-standing agreement with the Palestinian governing council of the camp that it will not enterwithout their request. However, the council has never made such a request and the Syrian authorities have never asked for permission. This agreement still holds, although Palestinian forces defending the camp against Daesh have recently formed a joint command and are coordinating their efforts with the Syrian military, which has been providing artillery and aerial support. In addition, the army has been attacking areas adjacent to Yarmouk that are Daesh strongholds, in order to impede their access to Yarmouk and prevent resupply to Daesh forces in the camp.

There is no indication that the SAA is preventing humanitarian aid from being distributed in Yarmouk. Despite the siege, it has allowed the stockpiling of supplies on the edge of the camp and it has permitted civilians from inside to collect and distribute the aid. However, the government wants the civilians to leave, not to introduce additional persons into the camp, so it is reluctant to allow outsiders to enter, especially in consideration of the fact that they have no means of assuring their safety. Nevertheless, it has permitted humanitarian NGOs, including UNRWA, to distribute aid roughly half the time.

The result has been a modest but insufficient flow of aid to camp residents until Daesh captured much of the area. In the fighting to defend the camp and retake the Daesh-occuped areas, it has been much too dangerous for anyone to undertake aid distribution, with horrific consequences on the remaining civilians. As a result, the number of civilian residents has probably dropped to less than half of the 18,000 initial estimate, despite their qualms about evacuating.

Has the Syrian military been using barrel bombs on Yarmouk?

There is no recorded use of barrel bombs in Yarmouk before the entry of Daesh in late March, 2015. Their use in April, 2015 is confirmed, although the number of casualties due to such ordnance is astonishingly small. One or possibly two barrel bombs appear to have been dropped on the street outside the Palestine Hospital in the camp, but with no reported casualties. Higher numbers have been mentioned, but without evidence.

During the heaviest fighting, the Syrian Air Force (SAAF) has used both conventional bombs delivered by jet aircraft and “barrel” bombs in the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad and the adjacent part of Yarmouk. Residents report hearing dozens of explosions, but it is unclear how many were in Yarmouk, how many casualties there may have been and how many were civilians. A total of 18 civilian casualties were counted in all of Yarmouk during a week of intensive fighting at the beginning of April, but none have been attributed to the barrel bombs and it is uncertain who is responsible for the killings.

Does the Syrian army massacre civilians?

One of the main complaints against barrel bombs and the tactics of the SAA is that they cause massive civilian casualties. There is no doubt that disproportionate numbers of civilian casualties have occurred on specific occasions. Overall, however, the number of civilians killed by government forces and loyalists is less than the number of casualties in the fighting forces themselves, possibly as low as two combatants for each civilian. Not since World War One has this been the case for US forces.

As for the “barrel bombs”, the claims of their use against civilians and their exaggerated savagery do not hold up. Like any bomb, they are made of high explosives, sometimes with projectiles added. In this respect they are no different from many types of explosive ordnance used in military forces throughout the world. They are designed for destruction, including destruction of life.

The complaints against them are that a) they are by nature indiscriminate and hit unintended targets and b) they are almost invariably used against civilians. The first is patently untrue. Conventional bombs are usually delivered by fighter-bombers at high speed and often in proximity to the target. In Syrian and other engagements, the speed of delivery offers protection from ground fire. Such speed also reduces accuracy, but the relative proximity to the target compensates substantially for this disadvantage.

Barrel bombs are usually deployed from relatively a greater height that is out of range of ground fire. However, they are dropped from stationary helicopters, which provides greater accuracy that compensates for the height disadvantage. There are few if any reports of barrel bombs failing to hit their intended target (although occasionally the selected target might be the result of poor intelligence).

It has been reported that thousands of barrel bombs have been used by the SAAF since 2012, when they were first deployed, and that there have been thousands of casualties from such weapons. Unfortunately, little more is known except for anecdotal cases. Although some bombs have resulted in only material destruction, others have caused two dozen or more casualties. The available data do not provide much statistical help, such as the average number of casualties per use. Is it more or less than for convention bombs or for US drone weapons, for example? How many of the casualties are civilians and how many combatants? We do not know, but the overall civilian casualty rate remains unusually low compared to most other conflicts in the past century.

What seems clear is that the western press, governments and NGOs have treated barrel bombs as the devil’s weapon. The reason seems to be that while conventional bombs are capable of inflicting just as much damage and loss of life (and are being used extensively by the Ukrainian government), western arsenals do not contain barrel bombs. If these weapons can be sufficiently vilified as a weapon type rather than by their manner of use, Syrian military forces can be blamed for inhumane weaponry without the taint falling upon nations that use different weapons, even ones that are equally or more destructive. Oddly enough, the inhumane DIME and white phosphorous weapons used in Gaza did not provoke equal condemnation, even though the ratio of Israeli military to civilian casualties has been as much as 100 times higher than for the Syrian military.

Why, then, are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Chris Gunness of UNRWA, and most western press agencies condemning the Syrian government for the use of barrel bombs, for starving camp residents, and for preventing residents from leaving? Palestinians and their supporters are accustomed to false and biased reporting on the subject of Palestine. They know that the western media work overtime to protect Israel. That is their agenda. Do they think that these agencies are unbiased with respect to Syria?

The west, Israel, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and many sycophants and puppets of western powers have made abundantly clear that they intend to overthrow the Syrian government, in violation of the UN Charter and other international law prohibiting wars of aggression, and against Syrian national sovereignty. AI, HRW, and other human rights imperialists have never once recognized these facts vis-à-vis Syria. In fact, they have supported the west’s illegal push for regime change.

Is it not also clear that western institutions and media are distorting their coverage of Syria in order to promote this goal? Apparently not, even to persons who should know better and are accustomed to seeing such distortions in the reporting on Palestine.

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Ziad Fadel

By: Radioyaran

Why is the Yarmouk camp suffering? The true reasons, not western propaganda

April 11, 2015 radioyaran Syria

Reading through western (and probably Gulf states) media these days one could think that Syrian President Assad and “his” army (otherwise known as the Syrian Arab Army) from one day to the next simply decided to destroy the Yarmouk refugee camp and kill its Palestinian inhabitants through a siege and bombardment.
The same sources go as far as claiming that the recent take over of the mostly abandoned camp through the IS militia even serves Assads interests.
The silly and easily refutable fairy tale of Assad secretly collaborating with IS is achieving sort of an “evergreen” status among many of the above mentioned media:

It´s time to shed some light on what has been going on in the Yarmouk camp since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

Whenever western media reports of any places being shelled in Syria the impression is created that this can only have been the work of the Syrian Army. This is an early case of such shelling hitting the Yarmouk camp:
“Two mortar shells struck the camp in the early hours of Thursday from the nearby Tadamun distinct. The Syrian government said armed “terrorists” were behind the carnage…An alleged opposition battalion, Saif Al-Islam, reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the Palestinians in Yarmouk camp are in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.”

So, at first the rebels attacked the camp claiming that it´s Palestinians are “guilty” by being supporters of Assad. Then they infiltrated the camp and began “arming sympathetic Palestinians to fight a pro-Assad faction in a Palestinian enclave in Damascus“.
It is clear that the rebels, the so called “moderates” of the FSA brought trouble to the camp:
“Residents at Yarmouk…said gunmen had been seen in the streets and some people kidnapped in recent days, eight of whom had been killed. It was not clear who was responsible.

A bomb exploded on Wednesday under the car of a Syrian army colonel in Yarmouk, although he was not in the vehicle, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A Syrian rebel commander claimed responsibility, calling it a “gift to Jibril’s people which will be followed by others”.”

Another resident confirms the assertion regarding the FSA being the harbinger of problems, devastation and suffering:
“Muhammad Tamim and Iptisam and their two adult children fled their home not far from the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus four months ago. Their parents and three elder children are still there.

“As soon as the FSA enters an area, the combat units follow and engage in action.  There’s no way we can live in the middle of a battlefield. Syria is headed towards a catastrophe,” said Muhammad”

As early as January 2013, foreign fighters were seen in the camp hiding among civilians in order to attack the Syrian forces:
“Foreign nationals are using the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus as a base to fight the Syrian government, a former adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Saturday.

“We’re calling committees in the camp and people there told us that foreigners are shooting at anyone that moves,” Bassam Abu Sharif told Palestine’s Ma’an news agency.

“They’re using the camp and the people of the camp as shields to attack government forces.””

Another report from the same time (and more than 2 years ago from now) mentions the presence of Al Qaedas Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra (Nusra Front):
“Some fleeing Palestinians refugees at the Maznaa crossing mention that they fear that al-Qeada affiliates are taking over Yarmouk camp and want to establish an Islamic emirate…But there are sections where the Al Nusra Front is very much in control and are actively setting up social service centers and training bases for arriving recruits from a number of countries as well as, regrettably, some Palestinians…”

A further confirmation from January 2013: “Nusra was at the forefront of fighting in that city’s Yarmouk district.”

Accusing the Syrian Army of systematically starving the Yarmouk camp people are misleading. Due to its vicinity to the center of Damascus and the heavy presence of Al Nusra and other radical groups the Syrian Army has cordoned off the northern entrance to the camp, while the rebels control the southern entrance and the adjacent districts such as Tadamon or Hajar al Aswad. Yarmouk is thus a huge risk factor for the government. Under such circumstances every army has to take strict measures to minimize the danger of attacks, infiltration and weapons smuggling into the capitals inner ring.
Nevertheless the Syrian Army has on several occasions evacuated people from Yarmouk to safe areas and attempted to bring in aid convois which was prevented and sabotaged by the REBELs:
“The convoy was cleared to proceed beyond the checkpoint and the Syrian authorities provided a bulldozer to go ahead to clear the road of debris, earth mounds and other obstructions.

The bulldozer was fired upon, hit by direct gunfire and forced to withdraw, though with no casualties. Thereafter, bursts of gunfire, including machine-gun fire, erupted close to the trucks and UNRWA vehicles, suggesting a firefight.

Also, one mortar exploded very close to the convoy. The convoy withdrew at this point following the advice of the security escort and returned safely to Damascus.”

The strategic geographic position of the camp is highlighted again here:
“The Islamist armed groups of the opposition saw the camp as the Syrian government’s Achilles’ heel and nothing else, a prize-catch in their desperate quest to “conquer” Damascus; the perfect springboard for their intended “jihad” against the regime’s main stronghold, practically putting a target on the camp’s back and turning its entire refugee population into a huge block of human shields held hostage to the flick of these groups’ military whims…The armed opposition’s all-guns-blazing infiltration into, and subsequent control over Yarmouk in late 2012 has plunged its Palestinian refugees headfirst into the throes of the Syrian war; transforming the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria into a “hostile territory” for the Syrian Army…For the Al-Nusra front and other Islamist fighting militias; taking control over the camp was primarily a matter of scoring territorial advances against the “infidel” regime, it constituted the closest front they’ll ever manage to get to Damascus, only this “pyrrhic victory” has had the camp caught in a tight militaristic death-grip where foreign backed insurgents are wreaking doomed havoc inside the camp (including looting, arbitrary seizure of properties and taking on human shields), and the Syrian army is giving the area the full “military-zone” treatment; imposing a full-fledged siege on most parts of the camp, particularly its northern entrance which connects directly to Damascus. ”

The same article raises a valid question: Why are the militants inside the camp well-armed and well-fed and apparently not suffering from hunger and thirst while the civilians have been dying?
“the curious fact remains that while the civilian population is suffering the lashes of hunger, thirst and dwindling medical supplies, militants inside the camp appear to be largely unaffected by the siege. On the contrary these groups seem to be well-armed, fully weaponized (at least to the extent that

enables them to retain full military control over the majority of the camp despite the ongoing siege) and on multiple occasions have even instigated clashes and firefights with the Syrian army.

This begs the question: what prevents these militants from using their own supply routes and active ammunition channels to soften the impact of the regime-imposed siege on the civilian population inside the camp, keeping in mind that areas bordering Yarmouk from its southern entrance are controlled by the “rebels” themselves? “

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

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