Saturday, June 29, 2013

29-Jun-13: Syria then and now

IDF field hospital on border with Syria,
March 2013 [Image Source: AFP via Yediot Aharonot]
The situation in Syria, with whose government Israel has repeatedly been urged to come to terms and to make painful compromises etc. etc, goes from catastrophic to even worse.

An NPR report today, "As Doctors Leave Syria, Public Health Crisis Looms", by Deborah Amos, says that while the number of people killed in the vicious civil war there
may now be as high as 100,000... another emergency is looming: a public health crisis across the region.
She quotes a study just published by the British medical journal The Lancet. It says
Syria's health care system is near collapse. Outbreaks of disease are on the rise in the country, and refugees sheltered beyond the border are also at great risk... Seventy percent of Syria's medical professionals have fled the country... There has been a dramatic rise in communicable disease... [Quoting local doctors in the field] 7,000 cases of measles in northern Syria in the past few months after a vaccination program was disrupted by war, and the list is growing to include TB, leishmaniasis, typhoid and cholera, which will come up during the summer months... When you consider chronic diseases like diabetes, Type 1 and 2, and cancer... you start to see that more people are dying of disease rather than war... This could lead to a public health crisis for the entire region. By the end of this year, the Syrian refugee population is expected to reach more than 3 million. [NPR]
Naturally none of this means the thugocracy running the country, and certainly not the jihadist rebels seeking to overthrow the Assad regime, have forgotten their deep hatred for Israelis. A Jerusalem Post report yesterday reminds Israelis of the ramifications:
IDF deploys Iron Dome battery near Haifa | The IDF deployed an Iron Dome anti-rocket battery in the Haifa area early Friday morning, amid heightened tensions in the North stemming from the ongoing Syrian civil war. The IDF Spokesman's Office stated that Iron Dome batteries are redeployed periodically in accordance with appraisals of the security situation. IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen. Benny Gantz [said] Thursday, “The region is shaking, from south to north. Syria is hemorrhaging blood, and in Lebanon, the fire has begun to catch the edge of Nasrallah’s robe. In the face of this changing reality, we must be prepared, coordinated and alert, more than ever...” [Jerusalem Post]
Military defenses aside, Israel, has been making a small contribution to addressing the humanitarian disaster unfolding north of the border. The Times of Israel reports tonight that
Over 100 Syrian citizens have been treated in Israel since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war two years ago, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday. According to the report, the Israeli government had downplayed the number of admitted patients, fearing that it would lead to an increase in refugees. Five Syrians remain hospitalized at Ziv besides the injured trio admitted Saturday. Earlier this month, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon confirmed for the first time that Israel is operating a field hospital on the Syrian border. He said the IDF was transferring severely wounded Syrian nationals to Israeli hospitals for treatment. Initial reports of an IDF field hospital in the Golan Heights surfaced in February. “Our policy is to help in humanitarian cases, and to that end we are operating a field hospital along the Syrian border,” Ya’alon told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “In cases where there are badly wounded, we transfer them to Israeli hospitals. We have no intention of opening refugee camps.” The IDF has kept secret the identities of Syrian nationals treated in Israel. [Times of Israel]
To give the monumental Syria implosion some small degree of perspective, a BBC report from three years ago (selected absolutely at random) reflects the memes and themes that seemed so precisely spot on at the time but, with hindsight, were nonsense.
Syria's Bashar al-Assad warns of Middle East conflict | BBC News | 17 June 2010
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said Israel's raid on the Gaza aid flotilla has increased the chances of war in the Middle East. In an interview with the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, he said Syria was working to prevent a regional war. But he added that there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a "pyromaniac government". Mr Assad also rejected claims he was arming Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
His calling Israel a "pyromaniac government" is part of a response to reports earlier that year saying "Israel desires peace and to engage in unconditional talks with Syria" [Haaretz, February 4, 2010].

As for those Hezbollah "militants" mentioned by the BBC, the general sense in the news media today, three years on, is that Hezbollah's now-admitted intervention on his side appears to be crucial to Assad's energetic manouevres to stay alive while his nation burns.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I don't understand why Israel's IDF is operating at least one field hospital. Why not a group of medical personnel from Doctors Without Borders be sent to the front? Or the medical staff from the UN? (It would be nice to see the UN being pro-active for once.)