Thursday, October 31, 2013

Desperately Seeking Haven

"During the day we can't walk, because we are targeted by the planes. They fire rockets at us, and helicopters drop barrels of fuel. Sometimes, we carried our relatives on our shoulders.
"We took back roads. There were snipers all over the place -- sometimes we couldn't move, even at night. The Free Syrian Army helped us and guided us by the hidden routes. They worked as scouts. They have motorcycles on the roads.
"I am thankful to the Free Syrian Army and I ask God to protect them, and to protect the King of Jordan."
Najim Denden, Idlib dairy farmer
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images     An aerial view shows the Zaatari refugee camp on July 18, 2013 
near the Jordanian city of Mafraq, some 8 kilometers from the Jordanian-Syrian border. The northern
Jordanian Zaatari refugee camp is home to 115,000 Syrians.
"I am asking for help only from God now.
"We are fed up with the international community. They have been giving us promises but nothing on the ground. If only they would put on a no-fly zone, because the regime targets people, animals, crops, everything. Why is there no help? We have been killed not just with chemical weapons but with knives, by mercenaries from Hezbollah, by bombs and guns. Still the international community does nothing to help us.
Esmak Ashar Khaled
Where once the West sympathized and promised backing and practical and arms assistance to the fledgling Free Syrian Army, and there were a mere several thousand Syrians seeking refuge outside the country, now the tide has turned. With the influx of foreign jihadists coming from Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria, Afghanistan and Libya among other sources, the number of Syrians whose exodus from the country has challenged the absorption-and-care capabilities of Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey has ballooned to over two million.

And the international community is no longer anxious to support the rebels for fear their support will validate the presence of Sunni Islamist terrorists like al Nusra and al-Qaeda in Iraq whose voracious appetite for slaughter seems unappeasable in its vast brutality. The silent anguished choice between the foreign jihadists of vicious temperament and the equally vicious regime and its Hezbollah terror allies give no comfort to any onlookers. Previous promises of support and weapons have vanished.

Where once the rebels had the government forces on the run, and the Syrian regime and the military were bleeding important government figures and the army its (mostly Sunni) generals, that has now been sorted out; the regime, with the formidable assistance of Hezbollah and Iran's al-Quds division of the Republican Guard has taken the upper hand, recovering from the hands of the rebel forces towns and villages and suburbs of Damascus. And the people of Syria continue to suffer.

Deprived of all means of existence when the regime withholds electricity, food, medicine and potable water, while incessantly bombing the rebel-held areas, Syrian civilians barely manage to hang on to their lives and their possessions, all too often losing both. Unable to escape the confines of the blockade keeping them starving prisoners in their former homes, they plead for mercy from an implacable government claiming they are harbouring rebels. When finally women and children are permitted to flee, their men are held in 'custody' for further examination.

Peace is not merely elusive in the chaos of this conflict leaving destruction and death to fog the atmosphere of hope, but those in the administration who imagine they are capable of leading the regime they represent toward reasonable accommodation leading to a cessation of violent hostilities are given instant notice. Deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil was dismissed for having "undertaken activities and meetings outside the homeland without co-ordination with the government", when he met with Western officials in Geneva to discuss potential negotiations.

And In Jordanian refugee camps, the country least able to financially and logistically manage the influx of desperate Syrians needing succour and haven from fear and death, the refugees must experience the hazards of attempting to cross remote border outposts without alerting government sharp shooters to their covert presence. The Syrian regime is attempting to prevent the escape of Syrians to safety, stationing soldiers to intercept their intentions. Unarmed civilians are gunned down as they flee toward the border.

"Yes, they do this. We have seen it. The regime is trying to prevent people from leaving the country", agreed Brig.-Gen. R. Al-zyoud Hussein, commander of Jordan's border security forces' Sixth Brigade. He spoke of two Syrian regime military vehicles giving chase to three freight trucks overburdened with mostly women and children refugees headed to the border firing on the trucks. Brig.-Gen. Hussein gave orders for a Sixth Brigade patrol to return fire in warning volleys. And the refugees managed to cross the border.

The rebels of the Free Syria Army have an established agreement with Jordanian border authorities where border force trucks are parked close to safe crossing points, leaving headlights on at night to guide FSA-escorted refugee groups to safety.

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