Gunmen from a Palestinian faction loyal to Syria shot dead as many as 14 Palestinians at a refugee camp near Damascus on Monday, in a dispute over the group’s backing for the Bashar Assad regime, Palestinian sources said on Tuesday.RELATED:
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At least 43 other people were wounded, the Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.
Hundreds of angry refugees had tried to storm the headquarters of the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) in the Yarmouk camp on the edges of the Syrian capital.
They accused the group of sacrificing Palestinian lives by encouraging protesters to try to enter the Golan Heights, where several were shot by Israeli forces.
Syria claimed that 23 people, including a woman and a child, were killed and 350 were wounded on Sunday when IDF troops fired on Palestinians who surged against the fortified boundary fence separating Syria from the Golan Heights. The border marches were organized to mark “Naksa Day,” in commemoration of Arab defeat and territorial losses in the Six Day War.
Israel, with US backing, accused Syria of orchestrating deadly confrontations on the armistice line as a distraction from Damascus’s bloody crackdown on the 11-week-old revolt against Assad. Jerusalem also charged Syria with inflating the death toll, and attributed most of the casualties to infiltrators setting off land mines by throwing gasoline bombs.
“There has been a mood of deep frustration in the camp since Friday that Palestinian blood is cheap and Palestinians were being used by the Syrian regime to deflect attention from its internal crisis,” one of the sources at the Yarmouk camp said. He was apparently referring to sympathy among Palestinians for the plight of Syrian protesters calling for political freedoms in demonstrations during which hundreds of civilians have been killed by security forces.
The sources said that the unrest at the camp began when mourners at a funeral for eight Palestinians killed
on the Golan turned into a protest against leftist pro- Syrian Palestinian factions during which mourners threw stones at Palestinian figures who had praised Assad.
Hundreds of Palestinians armed with sticks and stones then headed to the PFLP-GC headquarters and tried to storm it. Several protesters managed to get in and killed one PFLP-GC gunman, they added.
Unconfirmed reports said residents attacked Palestinian leaders including Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’s political bureau, who had came to express condolences.
“The confrontation lasted from the afternoon to well after midnight,” a source said.
Like several other Palestinian factions in Syria, the PFLP-GC, which is headed by veteran leader Ahmad Jibreel, is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States.
Meanwhile, a Syrian staterun newspaper said this week’s “Naksa Day” clashes were “just the beginning.”
“The Palestinian refugees who gathered at the border were part of a mass march of progress for the right of return,” ran the editorial in Tuesday’s Tishreen newspaper.
“The great flood will bring with it the headline of liberation. Israel must expect it at any moment.”
The editorial said Israel should expect 600,000 Syrians of Palestinian origin to march “at any time” back to their villages and farms where their families originated.
The IDF responded with a stern warning, saying in a statement quoted by The Associated Press that breaching the frontier lines “is a violation of international agreements,” and that the military would “operate as necessary to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents in the future.”
Reuters contributed to this report.