Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Palestinians killed in Syria receive little attention

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad once painted himself and his father as the champion of the Palestinian cause. But now the situation appears to have changed, as Assad's army reportedly fired on the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk killing 20 on November 4, raided Hamas offices and there are fears of mass Palestinian deportations from Syria.

Over 400 Palestinians have been killed in the Syrian civil war, with little to no coverage by the Australian media. The self-proclaimed Palestinian advocates have also been all-but silent.

On November 7, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas phoned the UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and asked him to urgently intervene on behalf of Palestinian refugees living in the camps, the official WAFA news agency reported.

Despite Abbas' plea and reports that over 32,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, one does not hear calls for boycotts. And where are the mass demonstrations?

Palestinians once on the sidelines of the conflict are increasingly caught up in the Syrian violence. The conflict has also divided Palestinian loyalties with many Sunni Palestinians supporting their fellow Sunnis in the opposition and others backing Assad such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).

Pro-Assad Palestinians have also been targeted - this week alone ten pro-Assad Palestinians were killed by opposition rebels, and a well-known Syrian-born Palestinian actor, Mohammed Rafeh, was shot dead in Damascus reportedly punished for his support of the Assad regime.

There are also reports that some rebels have begun arming sympathetic Palestinians to fight the PFLP-GC. A rebel commander from the Suqour al-Golan (Golan Falcons) brigade told Reuters:

"We've been arming Palestinians who are willing to fight... We have formed the Liwa al-Asifah (the Storm Brigade) which is made up of Palestinian fighters only... Its task is to be in charge of the Yarmouk camp. We all support it and back it".

It appears that the shelling of Yarmouk was the Syrian army's way of supporting the PFLP-GC.

Attacks on Palestinian refugee camps in Syria should cause outrage across the world. But it seems the only time that Palestinian grievances receive significant attention by the media and Palestinian advocates is when the focus is on condemning Israel.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Syria continues to rise, and the world, for the most part, continues to turn a blind eye.

Sharyn Mittelman