‘Sharp, smooth and brutal’: Syrian dictator has ordered the de-Palestinianization of the Damascus area.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad has ordered his government to remove the Palestinian presence from the Damascus area, bulldozing the former Yarmouk refugee camp that used to be home for up to 250,000 people, Israel’s Channel 12 reported Wednesday.
The Palestinians, from the PLO to Hamas, are demanding a return. However, Assad decided that the camp will be liquidated and replaced with Syrian citizens, veteran Arab Affairs reporter Ehud Yaari reported.
“The Palestinians are trying to fight for the ‘right of return,’ this time to the refugee camp,” that was once looked at as the Palestinian ‘capital of the diaspora,’” Yaari said.
Located on the southern outskirts of Syria’s capital, the Yarmouk camp was actually a developed suburb with hospitals and schools some eight kilometers (five miles) from downtown Damascus. Before the Syrian civil war it was the largest Palestinian community in the country, with the offices of major Palestinian groups located in neighborhoods named after commanders of different armed Palestinian groups and Arab towns in Israel.
However, when the civil war broke out in 2011 with Syrians demanding more freedom, the Sunni Palestinians sided with the opposition against Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect that is a branch of Shiite Islam.
Originally controlled by the Free Syrian Army that sought to overthrow Assad, the camp eventually came under the control of ISIS and other rebel groups. This created a real threat to the heart of Damascus and led to years of heavy bombardment and a siege that lasted four years.
The shelling over the years destroyed most of the camp, leaving only a few hundred survivors by 2018.
Most of the former residents swelled the ranks of the millions of other Syrians as refugees in their own country or fleeing to camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Tens of thousands of Yarmouk residents were accepted as refugees in Europe.
Assad’s revenge against the Palestinians appeared in a recent Damascus city order approving plans to demolish and reconstruct Yarmouk, demanding the former Palestinian residents show documents proving ownership, although authorities know the records do not exist.
“The de-Palestinianization of the Damascus area is therefore expected, a displacement of hundreds of thousands. Sharp, smooth and brutal,” Yaari said.
The Palestinian committee that used to run the camp has already been dissolved and replaced by Syrian officials.
“This step symbolizes the erasure of the Palestinian identity of the place and its annexation to Assad’s estate,” Yaari noted, with the number of Palestinians who will continue to live there estimated at only 6,000.
Assad’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Palestinians
The Palestinians claim that 80 percent of the structures can be rehabilitated, but the Syrian government considers it necessary to renew the area with “construction evacuation,” first emptying and knocking down buildings.
Many buildings that used to be the Syrian headquarters of Hamas, the Popular Front and the al-Quds militia will simply disappear. Yaari noted, however, that all the Syrian government slogans about its “commitment” to the Palestinians and the sanctity of their struggle will remain in force.
“In Yarmouk, the Palestinians are now learning firsthand what they are worth,” Yaari said.
Coordinator of the Palestinian Future Organization in Syria, Ayman Abu Hashem, told Channel 12 that the expropriation and deportation amounted to Assad’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.
According to Abu Hashem, the Iranians are buying a lot of land in the camp through real estate agents, as part of their plan to turn the entire southern belt of Damascus into a Shiite stronghold, similar to what they did in the Dahiya area of the Lebanese capital Beirut, where the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group now dominates.
The Iranian regime also have no difficulty presenting itself as as the guardian of the Palestinian struggle, while at the same time doing its part to exterminate the Palestinian “capital of the diaspora,” Yaari said.