What’s next for Syria’s Palestinians?
For decades, the Assad regime in Syria was the most ardent regional champion of the Palestinian cause. When the country went to war with Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973, it claimed to do so on behalf of Palestine. Hafez al-Assad stood steadfastly against the Oslo Accords, refusing to support the compromise that the Palestinians were themselves prepared to make. And since coming to power in 2000, Bashar al-Assad has been a crucial patron of numerous Palestinian terrorist groups, just like his father before him. In recent years, Syria has served as a pivotal training ground, transit point, and weapons pipeline for groups engaging in “armed resistance” against Israel, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Popular Resistance Committees.
For their part, the Palestinians who have been aided and sheltered by Syria—there are some 500,000 in Syria, the majority living in nine refugee camps throughout the country—have responded by paying fealty to the regime. But with an internecine war now raging inside Syria’s borders, the Palestinians appear to be breaking rank. The London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that the PIJ has left Syria for Iran, whileMaan News Agency reports that PIJ leader Ibrahim Shehada recently departed Syria for Gaza.
Jonathan Schanzer — “The Fate of Syria is in the Hands of…Palestinians”