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Official: PLO seeking return of refugees to Damascus camp

Jan. 7, 2013 10:16 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 9, 2013 4:53 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- PLO leaders, the Free Syria Army and Syrian regime forces are in ongoing talks to finalize an agreement to allow Palestinian refugees who fled fighting in a Damascus camp to return, a PLO official said.

Anwar Abdul-Hadi, a senior PLO official in Damascus, told Ma'an late Sunday that the deal had been delayed because of several demands by the Free Syria Army.

Initial reports of an imminent agreement to end violence in Yarmouk camp and allow refugees to return were released earlier on Sunday by sources in Syria.

Abdul Hadi said that PLO representatives responsible for holding talks had rushed into announcing an agreement had been reached without having secured guarantees that Palestinian refugees could return to the camp.

PLO representatives have put forward three major demands in the negotiations. All armed groups, including Palestinian gunmen, must withdraw from the camp, food and fuel must be allowed in for residents, and the neutrality of the camp must be respected by all sides, Abdul Hadi said.

The PLO will not call for refugees to return to Yarmouk while gunmen still operate inside the camp, he added.

Six Palestinians were killed in Syria on Saturday, including a five-year-old girl in Sbeineh refugee camp, sources said Sunday. Yarmouk has been under total blockade by the Syrian army for four days, preventing the entry of fuel, food and medical supplies, they added.

In December, heavy fighting broke out in Yarmouk between Syrian rebels and the army, causing Palestinians to flee.

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