BEIRUT - Syrian fighter jets rocketed the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus on Sunday, killing at least 25 people sheltering in a mosque in an area where Syrian rebels have been trying to advance on the capital, opposition activists said.
They said the deaths resulted from a rocket hitting a mosque in the camp, to which refugees have fled from other fighting in nearby suburbs of Damascus. It was the first reported aerial attack on the camp since the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted last year.
Yarmouk, in southern Damascus, is part of an arc sweeping from the east to southwest of the Syrian capital where Assad's forces have been trying for several weeks to push back rebels from the gates of his power base.
A video posted on Youtube
shows bodies and body parts scattered on the stairs of what appears to be the mosque.
Syria is the home of more that 500,000 Palestinian refugees, most of them living in Yarmouk. Assad's government and Syrian rebels have enlisted and armed Palestinians refugees during the 21-month uprising, which has escalated into a civil war.
Heavy fighting broke out 12 days ago between Palestinians loyal to Assad and Syrian rebels, together with a brigade of Palestinian fighters known as Liwaa al-Asifah (Storm Brigade).
The fighting intensified on Saturday with rebels gaining ground inside the camp, forcing Ahmed Jibril, a veteran leader of a Damascus-based Palestinian faction that back Assad to leave the capital with his son.
Jibril's PFLP-GC has maintained strong ties to Assad throughout the uprising, unlike the Islamist Hamas movement whose Damascus-based officials - including leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal - quietly pulled out of Syria as the mainly Sunni Muslim revolt against Assad gained momentum.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the Syrian fighter jet attack on the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus on Sunday, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.
According to Ma'an, senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo told Reuters the PA hold Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime "responsible for this crime," adding that the attack shows the regime knows "no limits in its approach to criminal murder and destruction."
"In the Yarmouk refugee camp massacre and everywhere in Syria, the international community must put an end to a system of murder and terrorism in Syria before they burn the whole region," Ma'an quoted the PA official as saying.
"We are following up with our people in Syria about the conditions on the ground and we will take all measures that enable us to protect our people at all levels," Abed Rabbo was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Syrian warplanes bombed the town of Azaz close to the Turkish border on Sunday, destroying at least five homes, causing hundreds of people to flee and stirring panic at a Syrian refugee camp just inside Turkey, Turkish officials said.
Most of the bombs hit the center of Azaz, around three kilometres (two miles) from the Turkish border in an area dominated by Syrian rebels, but at least one landed 500 meters from Turkish soil, one official said.
"It is very close to the Turkish border ... There was also some bombing in the center of Azaz. Around 500 people were trying to come into Turkey," he said.