BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- About 2,000 Palestinians are in the custody of Syrian President Bashar Assad's embattled regime, the Palestinian Authority labor minister estimated Monday.
Ahmad Majdalani, who returned Friday from a brief visit to Syria, told Ma'an that about 1,300 of the 2,000 Palestinians in Syrian custody were thought to have taken part in the fighting there.
But he said the others had no involvement and should be released.
Majdalani was in Syria for talks with the leadership but he said the Palestinian delegation did not visit refugee camps for security reasons.
"The aim from my visit to Syria was to discuss with the Syrian government the possibility to keep the Palestinian refugee camps away (from the fighting) and never plunge them in the clashes," he said.
Majdalani said a handful of foreign countries were opening their doors to Palestinian refugees. Among them are Canada, Australia and some in Scandinavia, he said.
“The Palestinian side didn’t discuss anything with these welcoming countries,” he added in line with a long-standing policy to not take sides in the Syria conflict, which has left over 70,000 dead since the Assad regime launched a crackdown on protesters in March 2011.
He referred to the conflict in Syria as a "nakba," or "catastrophe," worse than the 1948 exodus.
Of the 530,000 refugees in Syria, he said, 150,000 are not registered with the UN refugee agency. Some 100,000 Palestinians have fled Syria and another 300,000 left their camps in search of safety.