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Abbas in talks to shelter Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria violence

Dec. 19, 2012 5:03 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 21, 2012 12:14 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas has contacted the UN and regional countries to try to find a solution for Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria amid fighting in a Damascus neighborhood, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Abbas wants the Palestinians in Syria to be able to return to Palestine to avoid the worsening conflict between President Bashar Assad and rebel forces, Nabil Abu Rudaineh told Ma'an.

The president is making intensive contacts with the UN secretary-general and Arab states to help the refugees, he said.

More than 1,000 Palestinian refugees crossed into Lebanon in the past 24 hours, a source at the Lebanese border said Tuesday. Residents in Damascus said hundreds of Palestinian families were trying to find shelter in the Syrian capital.

Over 150,000 Palestinians in Yarmouk, a suburb of Damascus, as well as thousands of Syrians living there, have come under heavy aerial bombardment in recent days, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said Tuesday.

Fatah said Wednesday that more than 800 Palestinians have been killed in Syria during the 21-month uprising.

UNRWA is housing over 2,600 displaced persons in its facilities and Damascus-area schools, and the number is growing rapidly, a UN statement said Tuesday.

The battle has pitted rebels, backed by some Palestinians, against Palestinian fighters of the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Many PFLP-GC fighters defected to the rebel side and their leader Ahmed Jibril left the camp this week, rebel sources said.

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank insist that Palestinians are not involved in Syria's internal conflict, but have become increasingly outspoken as the fighting reached Yarmouk, the largest population center of Palestinians in Syria.

The Palestinian National Council condemned Jibril for involving Palestinians in the fighting, and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority blamed the Syrian regime for a strike on a Yarmouk mosque that killed 25 people on Sunday.

Syria hosts half a million Palestinian refugees, descendants of those admitted after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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