Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Syrian role in Yom ha-Naksa

[Note: "Yom ha-Naksa" means "Day of the setback" - referring to the anniversary of the Six-Day War, which in 1967 began on June 5. "Naksa" is an Arabic word that means "setback" and is apparently the term that Palestinians use to refer to the Six Day War].

In order to get to the border at Magdal Shams and Quneitra, the Palestinian/Syrian protestors had to pass by Syrian army checkpoints. They were waved through on Nakba Day (May 15) and on Sunday, but not yesterday. Clearly, the Syrian government has the power to foster or prevent these protests as it wishes - as we have all been witnessing, the government does not hesitate to use force against those it views as enemies.

Isabel Kershner, in her New York Times article today, reports on the possible motives of the Syrian government:
But Israel said the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria was exploiting the Palestinian issue by sending unarmed protesters to the frontier in order to divert attention from its own antigovernment uprising and the bloody attempts to put it down.
In a rare convergence of Israeli and Palestinian sentiment, that sense of exploitation may at least in part explain the markedly muted reaction in the Palestinian territories to Sunday’s deadly confrontation in the north.
Leaders in Hamas-run Gaza condemned the killings of the protesters but, unusually, did not go as far as to call for revenge. The mainstream Fatah movement and other political factions also issued condemnations, but there were no official statements from the office of President Mahmoud Abbas or other Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank.
And then yesterday there were still more tragic consequences of the protests at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. There were funerals for those who had been killed the day before, and fourteen of the mourners were shot dead, not by Syrian troops, but by Palestinian security guards.
Palestinian security guards reportedly killed 14 Palestinians Monday in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. According to witnesses, an angry crowd of mourners began to charge toward leaders of Palestinian factions, prompting their security guards to open fire. 
The mourners accused the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) of endangering their lives during Sunday's protest on Israel's border, by encouraging them to put themselves in the line of fire.

The crowd chanted slogans against Maher al-Taher, PFLP spokesman and politburo member, and set fire to the PFLP headquarters. There are additional reports that Khaled Meshal, Hamas political leader in Damascus, arrived at the camp but was forced to leave.

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