home Human Rights, Middle East, Politics The Palestinians of Yarmouk: Haven’t They Suffered Enough?

The Palestinians of Yarmouk: Haven’t They Suffered Enough?

After enduring unimaginable horror, pain and suffering it seems the worst has yet to come for those 18000 Palestinians, a reported 3500 of whom are children, who remain huddled among the debris of their homes in Damascus’s Yarmouk district.

Most of the once 160000+ strong population of the Palestinian-majority Yarmouk district have fled since the onset of the conflict which Syria has been mired in since 2011. They have been bombarded and besieged by the military forces under the command of Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad. There have been numerous reports from human rights groups detailing the horrors those Palestinians have been subjected to under that brutal and inhumane siege – accounts like children having to subside on cats and grass while some others have died from malnutrition and starvation – which one would have to have a cold heart of stone not to feel repulsed by.

Earnest attempts to provide these Palestinians of Yarmouk with humanitarian aid has in the past amounted to what the UN once acknowledged was little more than a “drop in the ocean.” The spokesman for the United Nations Palestinian refugee aid agency, Chris Gunness, was recently very frank when he described Yarmouk as a “hellhole.”

The water supply of that “hellhole” was destroyed a few months ago making them even more dependent on aid agencies for access to water. Agencies which often find it impossible at times to send them the most basic of food supplies. And they certainly aren’t going to find it easier in the foreseeable future. Given the fact the summer season is approaching that is an alarming situation in and of itself. In the near future we may well see the Assad regime use water as a weapon to pacify these beleaguered Palestinians – after all, his presidential palace is a mere ten-miles away from all of this carnage.

And the situation in the Yarmouk district appears to be getting even worse. The district sits at a foothold of the Syrian capital coveted by groups opposed to Assad’s rule – for a variety of different reasons ranging from disdain to its authoritarianism to the fact that it’s not an Islamist entity. Now the infamously notorious Islamic State group has began attacking the district in an earnest attempt to subjugate those long beggared and terrorized people to their rigorously cruel rule. And the Syrian regime is also bombing the district again.

In other words the present state-of-affairs, which one United Nations official quite rightfully described as “beyond humane”, is seeing sadistic murderers rampaging through, and ravaging, Yarmouk’s streets and sniping people from its rooftops while the Syrian Air Force is dropping barrel bombs on it. Horridly crude weapons of war which very rarely actually kill any of Assad’s armed combatants but invariably kill and horrifically maim and cripple Syrian civilians who often find themselves caught in the crossfire of the fighting which has destroyed their country. Crossfire which is often their homes where millions have found it impossible to remain.

This scribbler pointed out a few months ago that residents of Syria’s now devastated Aleppo found themselves enduring the very worst of both worlds – in ways not too dissimilar to how the Palestinians of Yarmouk presently are. Assad’s air and ground forces unleashing widespread death and devastation on them on the one side and the ruthless Islamic State descending upon their neighbourhoods – where, like they do almost everywhere else they go, they commit the most appalling of atrocities – on the other. Another consequence of both Assad and IS postponing a later confrontation in order to consolidate their control over swaths of Syria at the expense of other opposition groups they both oppose, like the Free Syrian Army, before turning their guns on each other.

Also adjacent to Aleppo are two important towns called Nubul and Zahra which constitute important strategic footholds. Their 40000 inhabitants are aligned with the Syrian regime and are predominantly Shia Muslims. They have managed to repel al-Nusra assaults and bombardments in the past. If overrun by Nusra or IS, or both, they would doubtlessly be killed in the most lurid ways imaginable given those Sunni Islamists’ sheer pathological hatred for Shiite Muslims. Those towns, like other potentially bloody flashpoints across Syria, could be the site of yet another massacre in Syria’s seemingly unending and depraved war.

Photo by Elvert Barnes, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license