Palestinians are being starved to death. But this is not happening in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Nor is it taking place in Israel.
Rather, this is happening in an Arab country, Syria, while the international community continues to turn a blind eye to the tragedy.
At least 15 Palestinians have died from starvation since last September in the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said, «We have received reports over the weekend that at least five more Palestinian refugees in the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus have died due to malnutrition, bringing the total number of reported cases (of starvation) up to 15.»
According to reports from Syria, some 20,000 Palestinians living in Yarmouk face death from starvation as a result of the siege on the camp that began last July.
Yarmouk has been under siege by the Syrian army after a large number of gunmen belonging to the Syrian opposition found shelter inside the camp.
Yet it is not only the Syrians who are besieging the camp. A radical Palestinian group called Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, which is loyal to Bashar Assad, is also taking part in the siege.
Human rights activists say the Syrian authorities are refusing to allow aid into the camp, creating a severe humanitarian crisis.
Palestinian and Syrian activists have also launched a campaign entitled Save Yarmouk Camp in an attempt to end the crisis and prevent further deaths from starvation.
|A photo of a child’s funeral from the «Save Yarmouk Camp» Facebook page.|
According to the website, the siege has led to a sharp rise in prices of basic food, with one kilogram of rice being sold in the black market for more than $40.
The PLO leadership, meanwhile, seems to be too busy with the «peace process» and US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israel.
Besides issuing laconic statements calling for the lifting of the siege, PLO leaders have not been able to do much to help the residents of Yarmouk camp.
Zakariya al-Agha, head of the PLO’s refugees department, said in a brief statement that the death of Palestinian refugees as a result of the shortage of food and medicine is a «crime» for which the warring parties in Syria are responsible.
The PLO official pointed out that 37 Palestinians have so far died from starvation in the camp.
Yet the PLO leadership has stopped short of calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council or the Arab League to end the suffering of the Palestinian refugees in Syria.
The Arab League did meet recently in Cairo at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But the gathering was called not to discuss the plight of the Palestinian refugees, but to talk about Kerry’s latest proposals for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
«The besieging and starvation to death of Yarmouk camp is an all-out scandal,» wrote the London-based daily Al-Quds. «This is the first Palestinian camp that is being starved and besieged by Palestinians, namely the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command.»
The paper noted that more than 200 Palestinians from Yarmouk camp have been killed in Syrian air strikes.
The paper also criticized the Palestinian Authority and the Arab countries for turning a blind eye to the tragic events in the camp. «The blockade on Yarmouk camp is a big crime against the Palestinian people,» it added. «This crime is being perpetrated by the Syrian regime in collusion with the Arabs and the world.»
Alarmed by the silence of the international community, Palestinian activists this week closed the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in east Jerusalem.
The protesters called for pressure on the international community and humanitarian organizations to save the besieged residents of Yarmouk camp.
The plight of the Palestinian refugees in Syria serves as a reminder to all Palestinians that their Arab brothers do not care about their suffering. In several Arab countries, especially Lebanon, Palestinians continue to be treated as a «fifth column» and an «enemy from within.»
The Palestinians once again feel betrayed by their Arab brothers, who continue to pay lip service to the Palestinian cause while at the same time starving them to death, killing them and displacing them.
As for the international community, no one seems to be worried about the starving Palestinians in an Arab country. After all, this is not taking place in Israel and no Israelis are involved.
U.S. Fiddles while Palestinians in Syria Starve
by Khaled Abu Toameh
January 7, 2014 at 5:00 am