Seven of Syria's Thirteen Palestinian camps now controlled by Salafi- Jihadists
Vows of "Occupation Until Martyrdom'
by FRANKLIN LAMB
Homs Palestinian Camp, Syria
Jihadists are entering Syria at an accelerating pace, according to Syrian, UNWRA, and Palestinian officials as well as residents in the refugee camps here. For the now-estimated 7000 imported foreign fighters, Palestinian camps are seen as optimal locales for setting up bases across Syria.
"Syria's Palestinian camps have become theaters of war," said UNWRA Commissioner Filippo Grandi.
The Syrian people compassionately host 10 official, UN-mandated Palestinian camps, along with three unofficial ones, whose populations total at least 230,000. Eight of these are "Nakba ("catastrophe") camps," organized soon after Palestinians were expelled from their homes in 1948, while two, Qabr Essit and Dera'a (emergency camp), are "Naksa ("day of setback") camps." The latter were set up in 1967 as a result of the internationally condemned Zionist-colonial aggression against the two sister-Arab-nationalist regions--Palestine's West Bank and Syria's Golan Heights.
And it was on the Ides of March of the year 2011 we saw an explosion of violence near one of these camps, the Dera'a camp established in 1950, in the south near the Jordanian border.
But first, perhaps a simple listing of the camps, along with their populations and dates of establishment, would be in order here:
1950, Dera'a, 5,916
1967, Dera'a (Emergency), 5,536
1950, Hama, 7,597
1949, Homs, 13,825
1948, Jaramana, 5,007
1950, Khan Dunoun, 8,603
1949, Khan Eshieh, 15,731
1948, Neirab, 17,994
1967, Qabr Essit, 16,016
1948, Sbeineh, 19,624
1955-6, Latakia camp, 6,534 registered refugees
1957, Yarmouk Camp, 112,550 registered refugees
1962, Ein Al-Tal, 4,329 registered refugees
As of 8/8/13, seven of the camps--two in the north and five in the Damascus area and in the south of Syria--are presently with their throats under the jackboot of foreign Salafi-Jihadists. These jihadist cells moved against the camps early in the current crisis for purposes of forced recruitment, to benefit from a supply of noncombatant human shields, to shakedown the residents and take over UNWRA facilities, and to make use of the erstwhile "refugee camp security zones." All these steps were precursory to the setting up of military bases from which to launch operations aimed at toppling the current government of the Syrian Arab Republic.
How do the jihadists infiltrate the camps?
How is it possible that more than half of the Palestinian camps in Syria not only fell, but did so, regrettably, without all that much resistance, to the point at which we see them now--dominated by largely foreign jihadists who continue to impose their unwanted extremist religious beliefs on a largely progressive secular Palestinian community? It is a subject currently much discussed here.
This observer has deduced from a number of conversations--with former and current camp residents, as well as members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Palestinian NGO's, and also with academics--that there is a "model of occupation' metastasizing in Syria in a manner strikingly similar to what we saw six years ago at Nahr al Bared Palestinian camp near Tripoli Lebanon. The stories we hear today are quite similar to those from among the nearly 30,000 refugees at Nahr al Bared who were forced to flee to the nearby Badawi camp or to Lebanon's ten other camps--reports related to this observer in visits to Nahr al Bared in May of 2007.
What we hear today in Syria bears an almost uncanny likeness. For instance one lady, whose family is from Safad in occupied Palestine explained: "First they (the intruders) appeared only a few in number. We noticed them and that some had "foreign' accents and wore conservative clothes, most had beards. They were polite and friendly. Then more arrived, a few followed by women and children. They stayed to themselves at first and they began using the local mosque--even being welcomed at first by local sheiks who sometimes expressed admiration for the sincerity and devoutness. Then some of them began to preach their versions of the Koran, and at some point their gentle teaching became more strident, and soon these men were commenting on how some of the Palestinian women dressed in an un-Islamic fashion and even lectured young women about modesty and that they must change their ways, including stop smoking, and to leave public meetings if they were the only women present, and wear a full hijab."
The lady's sister interrupted: "Then guns appeared and some of the men appeared to be very skilled when they would use, for example, a school or playground to train. They were so serious and seemed to be in a trance of some kind. There was no possibility to talk or reason with them. All they seemed to want was martyrdom! Some actually believe that Syria was Palestine and they were here to liberate Al Quds!"