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Ambassador: Palestinian refugees can return to Damascus camp

Dec. 20, 2012 2:22 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 2, 2013 9:20 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An agreement between Palestinian factions in Damascus will allow residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp to return after fleeing violence, the Palestinian ambassador to Syria said Thursday.

Mahmud al-Khalidi said Syrian and Palestinian factions will not allow gunmen to enter the camp. In turn, troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad will stay outside, he said.

"We are working to make the entrances of the camp safe for Palestinians," al-Khalidi told Ma'an.

The ambassador said he was in contact with the Syrian regime as well as leaders in the army and could confirm that they officially withdrew from the camp, allowing thousands of Palestinians to return.

He said the embassy in Damascus was committed to protecting displaced Palestinians and helping them find secure places despite the bloodshed since the uprising started in 2011.

Ahmad Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, a Palestinian faction allied with the Assad regime, is cooperating with the plan, the ambassador said.

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 it was housing over 2,600 displaced persons in its facilities and Damascus-area schools and the number was growing.

Meanwhile more than 1,000 Palestinian refugees crossed into Lebanon.
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