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The Battle for Syria

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Assad's Palestinian Mercenaries

January 3rd 2017

Mahmoud Abbas and Yassir Arafat

Over the past century, various Palestinian leaders have fostered alliances that were either unsuccessful or not particularly useful to them.

Take the alliance formed by the grand mufti of Jerusalem during the British mandate period, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who during World War II supported Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Al-Husseini hoped the Germans would win the war and Hitler would become fuhrer of the Middle East. After the Nazis lost the war, however, the West did not forgive al-Husseini, which severely damaged the Palestinian cause for over two decades.

Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat erred in 1990 when he supported Iraq in its invasion of Kuwait. Palestinian public support for the invasion led to a great deal of suffering for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians then living in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, who paid the price for Arafat's support of the tyrannical Saddam Hussein.

Today, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is maintaining ambiguity regarding the Syrian war, taking pains to avoid denouncing or supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. It appears Abbas has learned from history. However, tens of thousands of Palestinians are apparently fighting on behalf of the Syrian dictator, even sacrificing their lives for him. These Palestinians, who went to live in Syria in recent decades, are helping slaughter the Syrian people fighting for their freedom. The guest has turned murderer.

Among the Palestinians, the most fervent Assad supporters belong to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's General Command, led by Ahmed Jibril. The organization is headquartered in Damascus and consists of thousands of fighters; Jibril's loyalty to the Assad regime has never wavered. His fighters are taking part in the war effort, even against their own people, their own flesh and blood. In one example, when Assad's army laid siege to the Yarmouk refugee camp, it was Jibril's fighters who provided the regime with intelligence information and ground support.

Liwa al-Quds ("the Jerusalem Brigade") was formed in 2013 and operates in the Aleppo sector. It comprises three battalions: the Lions of al-Quds; Deterrence; and the Lions of al-Shahba, named after an area in Aleppo. The brigade was established by Palestinian engineer Muhammad al-Sa'eed, also known as "The Engineer." Since 2013, it has taken part in every campaign in Aleppo, mostly with Russian coordination and support. Some of its fighters have even been awarded citations by the Russian army for their successful actions in Aleppo, including its recent liberation. The brigade receives directives from Assad's army and even fights alongside Hezbollah and Iranian forces against other rebel groups and Islamic State. Although the precise number of fighters in its ranks is unclear, estimates put the number in the several thousands. Assad's army sends the brigade to the front lines, which is why it has sustained a majority of the casualties: Since 2013, some 300 of its fighters have been killed and 600 have been wounded.

Another Palestinian faction fighting for Assad is the Galilee Forces or Galilee Brigade -- the military wing of the Palestinian Youth Return Movement led by Fadi al-Mallah, also known as Abu al-Fidaa. It was formed in May 2011, around the outbreak of the Syrian uprising, in the Khan Danon refugee camp in southern Damascus. The organization's goal is to fight for Assad, whose money has helped al-Mallah recruit hundreds of Palestinian fighters.

At present, thousands of Palestinians are fighting in Syria on behalf of Assad. Many Palestinian leaders have stood on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of morality, particularly those waging war on the beleaguered people of Syria. These Palestinians were taken in and trained by the Syrian people, who gave them funding, shelter and protection. Today these guests are slaughtering those very people.

For whatever reason, the international community, which only becomes distraught when discussing the "poor Palestinians in Israel," ignores this fact just as it ignores the genocide taking place in Syria, mere kilometers from the Israeli border, perpetrated with the help of Palestinians.

Dr. Edy Cohen is a research fellow at Bar-Ilan University.


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