A report published on September 18 revealed that 638 Palestinians have been tortured to death by Syrian intelligence officers in the past few years. The victims include 37 women, according to the report by the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS), a human rights watchdog that monitors the situation of Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria.
The group called on the Syrian authorities to disclose the status of hundreds of Palestinians who are being held in Syrian prisons and whose fate remains unknown. "What is happening inside the Syrian detention centers against the Palestinians is a war crime by all standards," it said.
AGPS also revealed that 4,121 Palestinians have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the civil war there.
"AGPS data indicates that 79% of the Palestinians of Syria killed since the outbreak of the conflict are civilians.
"21% of those killed are members of armed groups affiliated with the Syrian regime or opposition forces.
"The causes of death vary between shelling, clashes, torture in government jails, drowning, field executions, the blockade [on Palestinian communities], and medical neglect."
The fate of 1,797 Palestinian detainees, including 110 women, remains unknown despite repeated appeals to the Syrian authorities.
"The real number of detainees and victims of torture is greater than what has been documented due to the Syrian regime's refusal to release information about those being held in its prisons," according to AGPS. "In addition, the victims' families are afraid to announce the death of their sons under torture for fear of prosecution by the Syrian regime."
The publication of these disturbing figures coincided with the announcement by Hamas, the Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorist group, that it has decided to renew its relations with Syria. Some Palestinians have welcomed the Hamas move, while others condemned it a betrayal of Palestinians and other Arabs.
By rushing to embrace the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hamas, whose leaders control the Gaza Strip from their luxurious villas, hotel suites and spas in Qatar and Turkey, has again shown its contempt for the Palestinians and other Arabs who have fallen victim to the atrocities committed by the Syrian authorities, especially over the past decade.
The Hamas leaders are crawling back towards the Assad regime ten years after they were expelled from Syria for refusing to support the brutal crackdown by the Syrian army against the opposition, which was made up of various secular and Islamist groups, including the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the Free Syrian Army, Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham and the Southern Front.
In Assad's Syria, failure to support the crimes perpetrated by the regime is itself considered a crime. Hamas's crimes, according to the Assad regime, was that it did not take the regime's side in the civil war.
Assad has evidently been hoping that Hamas would come out in support of his regime and even participate in the crackdown on the opposition, as some pro-Assad Palestinian groups did, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, headed by arch-terrorist Ahmed Jibril. Now that Hamas is about to return to Syria, there is a high probability that its men will join Assad's crackdown on the Syrian opposition.
According to some reports, Iran and its Lebanese terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, acted as mediators between Hamas and the Assad regime. Iran's mullahs and Hezbollah are staunch supporters of Assad and have even sent troops and security experts to Syria to assist him in suppressing and oppressing the Syrian people, as well as the Palestinians living there.
Iran's mullahs want to make sure that their terrorist proxies and the Assad regime remain on good terms. The mullahs are hoping that the renewal of ties between Hamas and Syria will strengthen the Iranian-led "axis of resistance" in the Middle East. The "axis of resistance" refers to an anti-Western/anti-Israeli/anti-Saudi political and military alliance between Iran, the Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.
The Hamas-Assad rapprochement has enraged a number of Palestinians and Syrians. They are calling out Hamas for its hypocrisy and demanding that it refrain from normalizing its ties with Assad.
The Syrian Islamic Council condemned Hamas for disregarding the feelings of millions of Syrians who were tortured, displaced and killed by the Assad regime. "By proceeding with normalization with the criminal gang [in Syria] and throwing itself into the arms of Iran, Hamas has abandoned Jerusalem and Palestine and failed the Arabs, especially in Iraq and Yemen, where the mullahs and their gangs have wreaked corruption, murder and destruction," the council said.
Palestinian political analyst Ibrahim Hamami said that there was widespread discontent among the Palestinians over the Hamas reconciliation with Syria. "Hamas will lose the support of many Arabs and Muslims," Hamami wrote. "The decision will have a disastrous impact on Hamas. Hamas's decision is a disaster and tragedy and even a sin."
Palestinian political activist Issa Amro asked: 'What is the justification for the return of Hamas-Syrian relations? Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is a war criminal who killed his own people, and our position towards him can't be changed."
What is bizarre is that Hamas is now praising Syria's "effective and historical" role in supporting the Palestinians. This is the same Syria that is responsible for the massacre of thousands of Palestinians in both Syria and Lebanon over the past five decades.
Hamas, however, apparently has no problem embracing an Arab regime that has so much Palestinian blood on its hands. When an Arab regime kills and imprisons Palestinians, the leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian groups prefer to keep their mouths shut. They are afraid of criticizing the Arab regimes for committing atrocities against the Palestinians because they know that they would be punished and humiliated by their Arab brothers if they dared to do so.
The Hamas embrace of the Assad regime is yet another example of how Palestinian leaders care nothing about their own people, let alone the lives of other Arabs.
The leaders of Hamas, who are living the good life in Qatar and Turkey, are much more interested in stuffing their coffers with money from the mullahs in Iran than in seeing the suffering of their people in the Gaza Strip or in any Arab country, including Syria.
The leaders of the Palestinian Authority are not much different. They too are preoccupied with looking after their personal interests and making sure that they remain in power forever.
Shortly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will head to the United Nations General Assembly to spew yet more venom against Israel. The plight of his people in Syria and other Arab countries will be at the very bottom of his list of priorities, if at all. Like Hamas, Abbas too does not seem to care if his people are being slaughtered by an Arab dictatorship.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.