iraqi palestinians syria.
(photo credit: AP)
More than 200 Palestinians fleeing the insecurity in Iraq arrived in Syria on Tuesday after spending weeks in the no man's land of a desert border crossing because Jordan refused to admit them.
The 244 refugees, who crossed the Iraqi border into Syria in nine buses, said they had been threatened in Iraq and told to leave the country.
Most of the refugees, who included about 40 women and 70 children, had been stranded in the no man's land on Iraq's border with Jordan since March, when the Amman government barred their entry.
Eventually, the Palestinian Authority persuaded Syria to accept them, and the UN Refugees and Works Agency and the UN High Commission for Refugees arranged for them to be taken north to Syria on buses that drove through Iraq.
The refugees arrived at the Tanaf border crossing, 300 kilometers (187 miles) northeast of the Syrian capital of Damascus, where they were received by Ali Mustafa, the head of the General Administration for Palestinian Arab Refugees in Syria, and three representatives of the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
"I have been stuck on the border since March 19," said Iyhab Tim, 30, a Palestinian from Baghdad. "I am extremely glad to find a country to live in at a time when all the Arabs have rejected us."
He said in Iraq, he and his wife and child were subjected to "harassment and threats like the rest of the Palestinian community in Iraq."
Another Palestinian on the buses, Jamal Abdul-Naser, 25, said he decided to leave Baghdad, where he lived, "because of lack of security."
He said he had received several warnings urging him to leave.
In March, Jordan refused to admit the Palestinians who came to the border, and who initially numbered 181, as it has accepted hundreds of thousands of Iraqis since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003. Jordan also hosts large numbers of Palestinians displaced in the wars with Israel of 1948 and 1967.
But Syria agreed to accept the stranded Palestinians during the visit to Damascus of Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahar on April 20.
After Syria's decision became known, another 63 Palestinians in Iraq were allowed to join the group to be bussed to Tanaf.