The Assads and the Palestinians over the Years

by Stanley Heller

bashar-al-assad-body-count-in-syria-from 2011-latuff (86K)
The flag of the Assad dynasty

Because from time to time U.S. presidents and Israel say bad things about the Assad’s, many believe the Assads must be supporters of the Palestinians. While the Syrian people had indeed been friendly to Palestinians and Palestinian refugees, these facts should be remembered about the decades of rule of Syria by the Assad family:

In 1970 Palestinians in Jordan were fighting with the Jordanian king. The Syrian government sent in tanks in support of the Palestinians until Hafez al-Assad became Defence Minister of Syria and grounded the air force supporting those tanks. The result was the Syrian forces were defeated and had to be withdrawn. It was a bad blow to the Palestinian fighters who were eventually totally beaten in what is often called “Black September”.

Assad took total power at the end of 1970. In 1976 Syrian army invaded Lebanon to aid rightist forces opposed to an alliance of Palestinians and Lebanese leftists. A Palestinian camp called Tel Al Zaatar was put under siege and overwhelmed. Then between 1,500 and 4,000 were killed.

In 1982 Syrian infantry troops fought well against Israeli troops during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon which was mainly directed against the PLO. After a time Assad made a separate agreement with Israel to stop fighting between the two forces.

In 1983, Assad's Syria and Gaddafi's Libya encouraged a rebellion within Fatah among its cadres in Lebanon. The purpose was to take control of the PLO. At one point Syria and Israel participated in bombardment and siege of the Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon

During the "War of the Camps" starting in 1985 Assad partnered with a Lebanese militia called Amal and starved Palestinian camps on and off for years, stopping only at the start of the first intifada in 1987. When it was over Palestinians and doctors like Christopher Giannou emerged from their shelters looking like skeletons.

In 1990 Assad and Saudi Arabia settled the Lebanese Civil War. One part of it was the make a government minister out of Elie Hobeika, the main perpetrator of the of the 1982 Sabra Shatila massacre of Palestinians in Beirut

The Israel-Syria border has been the quietiest of all Israel's border ever since 1970 when Assad took over. Military checkpoints kept Palestinians away from the Golan. Yet as PRI reported "on June 5, 2011 on the 44th anniversary of Israel's occupation of Syria's southern Golan Heights, the PFLP-GC, a faction long allied with the regime, helped organize hundreds of Palestinians from Yarmouk to travel to the Golan Heights." 20 Palestinians were killed by Israel. Assad soldiers allowed this unprecedented action. There was real anger in the Palestinian camps at this adventure that seemed clearly designed to divert attention away from the revolution in Syria. There was a huge angry demonstration in Yarmouk camp with perhaps 30,000 people filling Yarmouk St. A PFLP-GC guard shot and killed a young boy. This was a key event in the ending of the general neutrality in the Palestinians camp towards Assad and the revolution. Within a year Assad had put Yarmouk camp under siege. In 2014 an UNWRA photo of desperate people in the camp got worldwide attention. Yarmouk had as many at 800,000 Palestinians and Syrian residents. By the Assad siege and Nusra and ISIS invasion turned the area into rubble.

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