Abbas to Iraq: Stop killing Palestinians

Families of those in Iraq press Abbas to ask to transfer them to safer locales.

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in Iraq by Iraqis belonging to various political and religious factions over the past few months, Palestinian Authority officials here told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. In the past week alone, three Palestinians living in Baghdad were kidnapped and brutally murdered, the officials said. A week earlier, gunmen kidnapped and murdered Nawaf Mussa, a Palestinian who was working as an imam in a Baghdad mosque. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday phoned several Iraqi government officials and representatives of various groups in Baghdad, urging them to intervene to stop the killings. The PA, according to the officials, has also requested the intervention of the US and the UN. "Palestinian refugees in Iraq are being targeted on a regular basis," said Azzam al-Ahmed, a former PLO ambassador to Iraq. "We are doing our utmost to stop this vicious campaign." Ahmed said US troops in Iraq had managed to thwart several attacks on neighborhoods where large numbers of Palestinians live, saving many lives. Ahmed said Abbas had phoned Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and other government officials and asked them to provide protection for the Palestinians. "The situation is very tense," Ahmed said. "Sadly, many Iraqis, especially the Shi'ites, see the Palestinians as allies of their rival Sunni brothers. The Palestinians are not involved in the conflict between the Shi'ites and the Sunnis." The families of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Iraq appealed this week to the PA leadership to launch a worldwide campaign to stop the killings. The families demanded that the PA move all Palestinians from Iraq into other countries. Ala Muhanad, a spokesman for the families, told the Post it was time that all Palestinians leave Iraq. "The situation there is extremely dangerous because the country is on the verge of civil war," he said. "The Palestinians are being targeted, mainly by Shi'ite militias and Iraqi intelligence officers who accuse them of supporting the Sunnis and the ousted Ba'ath regime. They are also accused of supporting Saddam Hussein. According to unofficial statistics, at least 300 Palestinians have been murdered in Iraq over the past three years." Muhanad said one proposal being floated around calls for transferring some 85,000 Palestinians who live in Iraq to the Gaza Strip, Sudan and Syria. Another Palestinian with family in Iraq, who asked not to be identified, scoffed at the news that Abbas had phoned the Iraqi president. "Who is this Talabani and what influence does he have in his own country?" he asked. "The Palestinians in Iraq are being massacred and no one seems to care. Is this all our president is capable of doing - phoning the Iraqi president? We want to see real measures, such as transferring the Palestinians there to safe countries." The PLO's acting ambassador to Iraq, Dalil Kassous, accused elements of the Iraqi security forces of standing behind many of the attacks. He said members of the Dhi'eb (wolf) division in the Interior Ministry attacked a Palestinian community east of Baghdad with rockets and mortars last week. He said gunmen also tried to storm a mosque frequented by Palestinians in the Baladiyat neighborhood in Baghdad. According to Kassous, Palestinian gunmen managed to repel the attackers and even took one of them prisoner. In another recent incident, Iraqi militiamen kidnapped and murdered the two brothers of a former PLO diplomat. Their bullet-riddled bodies were discovered in the Thawra neighborhood.