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PFLP-GC divided on Syria stance

Aug. 7, 2012 3:49 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 9, 2012 11:05 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Further strife appeared within the Popular Front for the Liberation - General Command on Tuesday as the movement faced internal divisions over its stance on Syria.

The PFLP-GC in Ramallah met Monday and issued a statement condemning the lack of neutrality of its Damascus-based secretary-general Ahmad Jibril in the Syrian uprising.

Jibril has declared his support for embattled President Bashar Assad and recruited armed faction members allegedly to defend Palestinian refugee camps against rebel fighters.

In its statement, the PFLP-GC in Ramallah threatened to break from its leadership in Damascus in protest over Jibril's decisions, and reiterated the group's position that Palestinians must remain neutral in Syria.

PFLP-GC's Gaza-based military wing, the Jihad Jibril Brigades, said Tuesday that the statement reflected the views of one PFLP-GC central committee member, Shawkat Hammad, and not the majority of members in Ramallah.

Hammad told Ma'an on Tuesday that Jibril was making decisions without consulting the group's leadership. He said six Central Committee members had quit in protest.

The brigades responded: "We denounce Hammad’s accusations against the secretary-general Ahmad Jibril claiming that he takes decisions individually. We hereby confirm that such remarks represent the speaker only."

Jibril's positions on Syria reflect the PFLP-GC's in Palestine and abroad, the brigades said in a statement.

The director of the PLO's Damascus politburo Anwar Abdul-Hadi on Friday criticized Jibril's decision to arm Palestinians in Yarmouk refugee camp.

Abdul-Hadi blamed Jibril for recent events in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus.

"The Yarmouk camp has not witnessed any tough events since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, except in the last two months. The latest event was yesterday when 20 people were killed and about 65 were injured," Abdul-Hadi told Ma'an last week.

He said Thursday’s attack came after Jibril armed some men in the camp under the pretext of protecting the Palestinians: "We reject this completely because our protection is the responsibility of the state of Syria, and we are only guests there."

Asked about the number of gunmen Jibril recruited, Abdul-Hadi said it was in the hundreds.

Syria is home to nearly 500,000 UN-registered Palestinian refugees. An additional 120,000 Palestinians reside in Syrian cities.

Palestinians have largely stayed out of the war in Syria between Assad's security forces and rebels trying to topple the government. Leaders have sought to avoid commenting on the situation and embroiling their exiles.

On Saturday, the PA ambassador to Damascus Mahmoud al-Khalidi told Ma’an: "We still maintain that Palestinian refugee camps remain neutral toward the Syrian conflict."

After meeting with all 15 Palestinian political factions in Syria, they agreed not to take sides in the conflict, he added.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank staged several rallies in past months against Assad's regime, and some mosque preachers have prayed for his removal in Friday sermons.

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