Palestinians in Syria Drawn Into the Violence
The body of a Hamas official was found in his home on Wednesday night, bearing marks of torture. A colonel in the Palestine Liberation Army was sprawled in his car on Tuesday, fatally shot near his home. Three Palestinians were shot down in the alleyways of a refugee camp late last Sunday by a group of unidentified gunmen.
None of these deaths happened in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, but in Syria, where Palestinian refugees are being pulled into that nation’s dark struggle. All are still a mystery, a testament to the uneasy circumstances for the half-million Palestinian refugees caught in an uprising their leaders have desperately tried to sidestep.
Under the ruling Assad family, Syria has long defined itself as a champion of resistance to Israel, providing a haven for Palestinians, granting refugees full civil rights and hosting radical militant groups like Hamas. But the brutal crackdown on the opposition by President Bashar al-Assad’s government, with more than 10,000 killed since the uprising began in March 2011, has put the Palestinians in a difficult spot, forced to choose between the popular mood and their benefactor. The top Hamas leadership chose to leave, while other groups stayed behind, laying the groundwork for an emerging battle for the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian situation in Syria is very sensitive,” said Ali Baraka, the Hamas representative in Beirut. “Anything we say might jeopardize the fate of Palestinians in Syria, so we don’t want to interfere.”