Lifting the siege of Yarmouk one food parcel & polio vaccination at a time
Introduction by Jim W. Dean, managing editor, VeteransToday.com
[ Editors Note: The world unfortunately is growing numb to civilian carnage. A few years ago adults complained about violent video war games making hair-trigger mass killers out of their children.
Fast forward to today, and the war gamers have been replaced by wide open, state-sponsored terrorism…with one big difference. It’s not a game.
John Kerry pushes hard for a Palestine peace settlement, to the point of evoking the usual anti-semitism complaints from you know who…code for he must be doing his job well. But if the Israelis were living in Yarmouk they would be singing a different tune.
Obama bucks the Jewish Lobby on the Iran nuclear talks where the Zionists are desperately trying to cling to their last big Muslim bogeyman ‘wipe us off the map’ threat . Victoria Nuland from the State Department brags in a YouTube about the US pumping $5 billion of taxpayer money into destabilizing the Ukraine to help birth a US puppet government.
And then when we come to Syria, our Nobel Peace Prize winner President signs off on a diplomatic strategy demanding Assad step down, which everyone knows he will not…and why.
It was a strategy that choose attrition, and more slaughtering, with the bet that the Syrians will get tired of it before the world does. It was a vote for more Yarmouks like Franklin Lamb shows us below.
But no one in the Obama or Kerry family is prostituting themselves to earn money to feed their children and parents to keep them alive.
Last week in Homs, Franklin Lamb met such a young mother who was finally getting out of the devastated Yarmouk Palestinian camp. The Syrian Geneva conference has this small victory to show for its months of effort.
The international legal community has failed us all. Where there should be sitting war crimes tribunals already in session, taking testimony and issuing arrest warrants, we see…nothing. The diplomatic community has also failed us.
We now have this Alice in Wonderland contrast of the terrorists out in the bush and village huts rating a drone attack for their nasty deeds. But those who practice state-sponsored terror on a much large scale sleep well at night because they have diplomatic immunity…so far. I will say this now, and you can mark my words. This state sponsored terrorism and the immunity that protects it is the biggest national security threat to everyone on the planet.
It is way past time for the rest of us to stop going stupidly along with this twisted immunity concept.
We need a universal outcry against protected Crimes Against Humanity and to begin discussions about replacing the failed international forums that we now have, with something that can really protect us.
To do nothing is to dishonor the dead even more…and all those who are going to die. If we allow it to continue on this scale with no punishment for the top people responsible, we are closer than you think to seeing this coming to our own neighborhoods. And who will care for us?
Franklin Lamb is getting long in the tooth as many of us are. But he is still on the front lines with the Red Crescent and UN workers at Yarmouk to give us this first-hand report. We wish them all God speed…Jim W. Dean ]
…by Franklin Lamb, Yarmouk Palestinian camp, Damascus
As of February 6th it’s been seven days since the first humanitarian aid have been trickling into the South side of the Yarmouk Palestinian camp and up along Rima Steet where this observer has seen crowds tensely waiting and hoping for food and clean water.
The 56-lb. food parcels packed by UNWRA, the World Food Program, the ICRC or some European aid organizations are intended to feed a family of five to eight for ten days.
For some camp residents the wait for relief began in June of 2013, when entrances and exits to Yarmouk were cut.
Up to this morning, approximately 5,300 food parcels have been allowed into Yarmouk for an average of 800-1,000 food packages daily. Aid has been entering sporadically and sometimes chaotically, with perceptible slight increases over the past week.
A large yellow flat-bed truck arrived on the morning of 2/5/14 and this observer watched as food parcels were off-loaded and stacked into two white pickup trucks that were then driven into Yarmouk under the watch gaze of pro- and anti-regime forces and security agents.
Jabhat al Nusra and other snipers could be observed on rooftops monitoring the distribution activity with their eyes pressed against their rifle scopes. One SARCS volunteer whom this observer has known for two years advised that she feared there might be a shootout between some al Nursa fighters and nearby suspected Hezbollah fighters watching the events.
Frankly, it is increasing difficult to distinguish which group is here, given the proliferation of fighters with beards and indistinguishable attire.
For many food parcel recipients, their first act is to open the jar of jam inside the cardboard box and scoop the confections into the mouths of their children or the infirm, usually elderly.
On 2/6/14, UNWRA also started a polio vaccination program, its first in Yarmouk and which is urgently needed by thousands of trapped camp residents.
Ten thousand dosages of polio vaccines are being allowed into the camp, with vaccinations currently underway.
In addition to the so far paltry amount of food allowed into the camp, approximately 1,600 people have been allowed to leave Yarmouk for medical treatment.
Young Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) volunteers, wearing shirts with large Red Crosses can be seen trickling out from the besieged camp this morning, invariably holding the hands, arms, or shoulders of those who could walk the 50 yards to waiting ambulances that will transport these patients, suffering the effects of starvation, including muscle atrophy and dehydration, to the PRCS Jaffa hospital two kilometers away. Others are being transferred to Syrian government hospitals in Mezzeh, in central Damascus.
This observer mingled for a couple of hours among the approximately 250 family members of trapped refugees, many of whom appear daily outside the only exit from Yarmouk camp, in the hope that a relative might be allowed to leave.
One elderly lady, maybe in her late sixties, explained that every day for the past seven months, i.e. since the tight siege of Yarmouk began last June, she has stood in the same location waiting for her son Mahmoud to come to her from inside the camp.
She has no idea if he is alive but she believes that God will deliver him safely to her.
Another view of much needed Divine assistance was articulated by a lovely young mother who had just exited Yarmouk with her two toddlers who looked, as she did, to be in fairly bad shape and in need of immediate hospitalization.
A former English literature student, the lady, whose family is from Haifa, Occupied Palestine, explained that she no longer has any belief in God and, as she elaborated why, she lowered her voice so as not to offend the nearby elderly believer waiting for her son Mahmoud.
She told of her experience trapped inside Yarmouk:
“For the past more than five months I have sold my body for one hour to whoever would give me a kilo of rice which sometimes costs as much as 14,000 s.p. (close to $ 100). I was proud to be a whore for these terrorists in order to keep my parents alive and who are still trapped, and I also prevented complete starvation of my children.”
She continued, “God did not help me and my family, but I promise if I live and ever see one of those dogs, I will kill him and he can learn if his God exists or not. None existed for me!”
She sobbed as two young lady volunteers from the PRCS held her as she and her little ones made their way to a waiting PRCS ambulance.
Given the 18,000 in need of urgent aid this cold winter morning inside Yarmouk camp, what has been allowed in so far has been a mere trickle, rather minor in a sense. But major for those getting the life-saving food parcels and urgently required medical treatment.
As this observer waits to return to Yarmouk this morning, and for a promised taxi to hopefully arrive, for few cabs want to go anywhere near Yarmouk camp these days, one imagines that, as has been the case this past week, there will be large crowds and long lines of people waiting and sometimes jostling for food.
This attests to the enormous humanitarian need and to the desperation of thousands of civilians, Palestinian and Syrian, being starved and used as a weapon of war and as human shields.
After months of false starts toward reaching an agreement among fourteen Palestinian factions here in Damascus, as well as the Syrian government, and more than a dozen rebel militias, each with disparate agendas, this week’s agreement, the 8th since early December, may or may not hold.
And it may not stop the carnage that criminally took 6000 more lives just last month.
If it does succeed, it will be one more half-step, to use UN Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi’s Geneva II term, toward lifting the siege of Yarmouk camp.
That achievement might then augur well for more widespread humanitarian efforts to achieve a nationwide ceasefire as a full step toward serious reconciliation to save this great country.
Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).
Editing: Jim W. Dean
He is working to find time now to database his extensive video archive of Americana and interviews filmed during his public TV days so individual topic segments can be key word searched to quickly use in future multi-media projects.
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