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PLO official: Thousands flee Damascus camp

Dec. 17, 2012 10:22 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 18, 2012 1:04 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Over half the Palestinian population of a Damascus refugee camp has fled, a PLO official said Monday, after Syrian forces killed 25 people in an aerial attack a day earlier.

PLO official in Syria Anwar Abdul-Hadi told Ma'an that Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk camp had been suffering terrible conditions during recent fighting between rebels and Palestinian fighters aligned with the Syrian regime.

Palestinian civilians have sought refuge in nearby schools, mosques and United Nations buildings, Abdul-Hadi said, adding that President Mahmoud Abbas had been updated about the latest developments.

The Syrian regime has pledged not to attack Yarmouk refugee camp again, the PLO official said, adding that there had been violent clashes inside the camp between Syrian rebels and Palestinian fighters from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -General Command, a Damascus-based Palestinian faction that backs Syrian President Bashar Assad.

An activist in the camp said airstrikes continued on Monday, destroying al-Jurmoq and al-Mansura schools. He told Ma'an shops had closed amid fears of a food crisis and most areas had no electricity because of the bombing.

Heavy fighting broke out 13 days ago between Palestinians loyal to Assad and Syrian rebels, together with a brigade of Palestinian fighters known as Liwaa al-Asifah.

The fighting intensified on Saturday with rebels gaining ground inside the camp, forcing Ahmed Jibril, a veteran PFLP-GC leader, to leave the capital with his son.

Condemnation

Syrian fighter jets fired rockets at the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus on Sunday, killing at least 25 people sheltering in a mosque in an area where Syrian rebels had been trying to advance on the capital, opposition activists said.

Spokesman of the Hamas government in Gaza Taher al-Nunu denounced the attack on Yarmouk in a statement Monday, while PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo condemned the Syrian regime's "criminal murder and destruction," calling on the international community to intervene.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called the attack "a matter of grave concern," while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the attack "scandalous."

Syria hosts more that 500,000 Palestinian refugees, most of them living in Yarmouk. Assad's government and Syrian rebels have enlisted and armed Palestinian refugees during the 21-month uprising, which has escalated into a civil war.

In November, the PLO said that around 600 Palestinians had been killed in the Syrian conflict.
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