|Photo by: Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters|
PA fears for Palestinians caught in Syria violence
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Some 300 Palestinians have been killed since beginning of uprising; half a million live in country, mostly in refugee camps.
Palestinian Authority officials Thursday expressed concern over the safety of
hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in refugee camps in
They said that some 300 Palestinians have been killed since the
beginning of the uprising in Syria in March 2011.
More than 500,000
Palestinians are believed to be living in Syria, mostly in a number of refugee
The PA announced Thursday that it was in contact with the Syrian
authorities and opposition to avoid involving Palestinians in the escalating
The officials said that in recent weeks a number of
Palestinians were kidnapped and killed by unidentified gunmen in various parts
of Syria. Three Palestinians were killed in the Yarmouk refugee camp near
Damascus earlier this week, they added.
In the worst incident, 16 members
of the Palestine Liberation Army, which is backed by the Syrian authorities,
were killed after gunmen stopped their bus and kidnapped them.
of the Palestinians, whose throats had been slashed, were later discovered in an
open field in the suburbs of Damascus.
Palestinian sources believe the
perpetrators belonged to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition
Some Palestinian groups based in Syria have been accused of
fighting alongside Bashar Assad’s forces against the rebellions.
which refused to support Assad, has moved its headquarters out of
Other Palestinian groups that remained in Syria continue to side
with Assad’s regime and have even prevented Palestinians from demonstrating
against the regime.
In the last few days, the officials noted, thousands
of Syrian civilians fleeing the violence in Damascus have found shelter in
Members of the Free Syrian Army have also entered Yarmouk and
other Palestinian refugees camps, the officials said.
“The flames are
quickly approaching Yarmouk,” cautioned commentator Rashad Abu Shawar. “Someone
is trying to drag the Palestinians into the fire.”
He said that dozens of
armed Muslim fundamentalists entered the camp in the past few days, chanting
slogans against Assad and in favor of an Islamic caliphate. The extremists
apparently succeeded in recruiting Palestinian militiamen to their
Reports that dozens of Palestinians have joined the ranks of the
Free Syrian Army and are now involved in the battles against Assad’s forces in
Damascus have triggered fears in Ramallah over a possible reprisal by the Syrian
“Our main concern is that the Syrian army will now start
attacking Palestinians under the pretext that they are fighting with the
terrorists,” said a PA official who is closely monitoring the situation in
“We are deeply concerned that Palestinians would pay a heavy price
in this civil war.”
According to the official, only one Palestinian armed
group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command,
which is headed by Ahmed Jibril, has been supportive of the Assad
Some members of the groups, the official told The Jerusalem Post,
have been helping the Syrian security forces in their clampdown on the
“Ahmed Jibril is an enemy not only of the Syrian people, but
also of Palestinians,” said a Fatah legislator in the West Bank. “The man has a
lot of Palestinian blood on his hands.”
Political analyst Fayez Rashid
said that although Palestinians have tried to stay neutral during the Arab
Spring, they continue to pay a heavy price in the Arab
Palestinians living in Iraq were punished after the US
occupation because they were accused of helping Saddam Hussein, Rashid pointed
out. “Palestinians were expelled from their homes and forced to run away toward
the borders with Syria and Jordan, where they live in harsh conditions and no
one is helping them.”
Rashid also pointed out that Libya’s Muammar
Gaddafi had also expelled Palestinians from their homes and jobs when he was in
power. But when the Libyan dictator fell, Palestinians were accused of having
helped Gaddafi suppress the opposition and were once again targeted, he
Khaled Abdel Majeed, a senior representative of the pro-Assad
Palestinian Struggle Front organization, said that there were increased signs
that some parties are trying to drag the Palestinians into the Syrian quagmire.
“We don’t interfere in the internal affairs of Syria,” he said. “But were are
opposed to the international conspiracy targeting Syria.”
Palestinians, meanwhile, have over the past few months fled toward Jordan, where
the authorities have denied most of them entry and are holding them in makeshift
camps along the border with Syria.