Two recent reports about the ongoing Syrian civil war provide a surprising twist about actions that save Syrian lives.
Late November warnings from top Israeli commanders that Syrian troops were mixing chemicals and filling dozens of 500-pound bombs for possible sarin gas attacks on civilians prompted an urgent international response, led by the United States.
The Israeli intelligence is credited with helping avoid untold civilian casualties from a desperate dictator clinging to power. A New York Times report described the episode as "a remarkable show of international cooperation over a civil war in which the United States, Arab states, Russia and China have almost never agreed on a common course of action."
That prompted writer David Frum to quip "Israeli intelligence saved the lives of thousands of Syrian civilians - surely more of a humanitarian intervention than yet staged by any Arab state."
Israel certainly acted in its own national interest as much as anything else. But the outcome is undeniable.
In contrast, national interest seems to be stopping Palestinian officials from helping Palestinian refugees escape the bloodshed in Syria. Leaders of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority declined the United Nations Relief and Works Agency's requests for help for roughly 150,000 Syrian Palestinians homeless, facing attacks, food shortages, and extremely cold temperatures, Fox News reports.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh reportedly believes that incorporating the refugees into the Palestinian territories would negate his argument for a Palestinian 'right of return' to Israel – what Hamas perceives as occupied Palestine. Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority seem to have a similar position, the Fox report said.
Palestinian leadership seems to value its goal of undermining Israel over helping fellow Palestinians in immediate danger.