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UNRWA assisting Palestinian refugees in Syria

Aug. 19, 2011 11:25 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 21, 2011 8:34 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The UN Relief and Works Agency has located around 6,000 Palestinian refugees displaced by unrest in Syria, a spokesman said Friday.

Chris Gunness told Ma'an that UNRWA has established a temporary office outside Ramel refugee camp in Latakia and is assisting thousands of refugees with cash grants for food, medicine and accommodation.

"Many, particularly the children and women, are traumatized and in a poor condition," Gunness said.

Thousands of Palestinian refugees fled a camp in Latakia as the port city came under fire on Sunday from Syrian tanks and gunboats enforcing President Bashar Al-Assad's brutal crackdown on protesters.

The attack provoked outrage from the Palestine Liberation Organization. Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo accused the Syrian government of "crimes against humanity" targeting Palestinians and Syrians alike.

Gunness said refugees were "too frightened" to return to the camp, and that UNRWA had not had access to the area.

"Draw your own conclusions about what that means about the security situation there and the state of the camp," he said.

UNRWA is assisting 1,100 families from the camp as well as refugees from Homs, Yarmouk camp in Damascus and Aleppo.

Gunness paid tribute to UNRWA's local staff who were "living the ideals of the humanitarian spirit on an hourly basis and showing to world audiences what the UN is all about: delivering essential services to the most needy and protecting the most vulnerable in times of insecurity and crisis."

On Friday, Syrian rights groups said pro-regime militias pounced on worshipers as they emerged from a mosque in Latakia despite Assad's promise a day earlier that his security forces had ended operations against civilians.

Activists said at least 23 civilians were killed across Syria on Friday as tens of thousands flooded the streets after prayers.

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