RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian faction loyal to President Bashar Assad on Wednesday blamed Qatar's support to rebel fighters in Syria for the killing of its members near a refugee camp in Damascus.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command said Qatar held full responsibility for the killing of eight of its members near Yarmouk camp earlier Wednesday.
Opposition sources said 10 PFLP-GC fighters were killed, and that Syrian army artillery and warplanes bombarded rebel positions in the area.
PFLP-GC leader Hussam Arafat said their members were defending the camp when opposition fighters opened fire. He warned that the faction will retaliate.
Palestinian officials insist that refugees in Syria are not involved in the deadly war rocking the country, citing security concerns for the vulnerable refugee population if they are perceived to take sides.
But Syria's uprising has split Palestinian loyalties, with many ordinary Palestinians sympathetic to the uprising by their fellow Sunnis, and others recalling the Syrian government's long-support for Palestinians.
Some rebels said last week they had begun arming sympathetic Palestinians to fight the PFLP-GC, which has helped Assad in his crackdown on the 19-month-old revolt.
The shelling of suspected rebel positions in Yarmouk, a swarming camp home to 150,000 Palestinian refugees and perhaps as many Syrians, appeared to be the army's way of supporting the PFLP-GC.
The Syrian foreign ministry said Damascus would stand "with full determination against any attempt to drag the Palestinians into what is happening in Syria," the state news agency SANA reported, quoting a ministry official.
President Mahmoud Abbas has asked both the United Nations and Russia, one of Assad's last remaining allies, to work to protect Palestinians in Syria, the official Palestinian news agency reported.
Syria hosts half a million Palestinian refugees, mostly descendants of those who fled their homes during and after the creation of Israel in 1948.Reuters contributed to this report