Shelling and Siege of Yarmouk Continues

By the beginning of March, the little food that was entering Yarmouk was cut off altogether with UNRWA declaring it had failed to continue their relief effort inside the camp.

The Islamic battalions led by Jabhat al Nusrah and ISIS entered the camp again and the “truce” broke down, people returned to their lives of starvation. The figures are estimated at around 133 casualties of hunger. The numbers will increase.

Nusra fighters have sent a message to the regime informing them that they want to negotiate directly in an attempt to bypass the PLO and other Palestinian factions, which they partly blame for the shortcomings of the last deal, a deal that did nothing to change the suffering inside the refugee camp.

The situation in the Yarmouk continues to deteriorate. No one seems to notice or care. Yesterday, on March 16th, over 60 rockets landed within the camp in the area between Al Rayjeh square, at the entrance of al Yarmouk Street, and al Wasim Mosque.

Five people were killed. Ten others were injured. It was the heaviest shelling of the camp since the revolution began. The regime’s forces, with the aid of the PFLP-GC, bombed tens of the buildings. The northern part of Yarmouk is almost completely destroyed.

The shelling itself is an answer from the regime to the request by the oppositional fighters to negotiate directly with them.

Jabhat al Nusrah and the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Aknaf Bait al Makdes have declared that they intend to increase their military operations if the regime continues to shell the camp.

However, the regime didn’t seem to take much notice of the threats. Today, March 17, at 1 A.M. Damascus time, the regime resumed their shelling using a combination of Shihab rockets and mortars.

“It’s really hard to find a solution”, one of the activists inside the camp told Beyond Compromise, “you feel that even the Palestinian factions don’t want to solve this conflict, many of them are trading with Palestinian hunger and blood. It actually happened that some of the representatives of Palestinian factions were selling cigarettes when they had the chance to enter the camp. It’s frustrating and painful to our memories and emotions to admit that. But it’s a truth. What good can you expect from these cigarettes merchants?”

Since the siege on Yarmouk started, the PFLP-GC, Assad’s thugs, have led the entire operation on a military and political level. It indicates that Ahmad Jibril, head of PFLP-GC, is taking his revenge on al Yarmouk and its people who refused to be his pawns for the Assad regime. In the beginning of the revolution, Ahmad Jibril was once surrounded in his party headquarters by a large crowd of Palestinian during a protest on June 2011. He had to be rescued from the camp by Assad’s forces. According to one of his bodyguards, Jibril had said on that day, “The people of Yarmouk have returned me to the mindset of the Lebanese Civil War, they have made me start thinking in a militaristic way again.”

Ahmad Jibril never forgot that day. Everything that he, and his militants in the PFLP-GC, are doing today, the starvation and humiliation of people in Yarmouk, has some grounding in that day. It is also indicated by the vengefulness of his fighters at checkpoints and during the distributions of aid, they were often heard saying to people that one day, sooner or later, they’d catch and punish them.

On the other hand, the Syrian regime wants to portray the crisis as a Palestinian concern. It is responsible for the siege, which it enforces with the PFLP-GC, but pretends it is only a Palestinian issue.

Now, the new demands of Jabhat al Nusra and the FSA have ensured that the PFLP-GC, and all Palestinian factions, will not be a part of any future negotiation.The role of negotiator has been removed from the hands of Palestinian factions, the reason they give is that that last agreement didn’t change anything on the ground.

It is true that the Palestinian factions have already proven their unwillingness to save Yarmouk. They, with the ruthless regime, are the most to blame.

The Palestinian factions will use the Yarmouk crisis for their own political purposes; Abbas sees it as a negotiating chip for the peace talks with Israel.

While all of these Palestinian factions only consider their own interest, Palestinian-Syrian society is being demolished.  It will only get worse.

Nidal Bitari

Nidal works on civil society issues, with a focus on human rights in the Arab world. He is the founder of the Palestinian Association for Human Rights in Syria and was also a freelance consultant for NPR in Syria, a researcher for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and a translator for the McClatchy company. His work has been published in many widely read sources throughout the Arab world, including Al Akhbar, Al Hayat, Al Safir and the Institute for Palestine Studies. He holds a Master’s degree in Political Sociology and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Damascus.

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