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Official: Peace agreement foiled in Yarmouk as PFLP-GC redeploys

Dec. 17, 2013 4:47 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 18, 2013 2:50 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Efforts by the Palestinian Authority to maintain the neutrality of the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria and shield them from ongoing clashes in Syria were foiled on Tuesday after gunmen affiliated to Palestinian and Syrian factions redeployed in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus.

Member of the PLO executive committee Ahmad Majdalani told Ma'an on Tuesday that the plan to offer relief to the besieged Yarmouk camp was foiled by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a Palestinian militant group closely allied to the Syrian regime.

Majdalani explained that PFLP-GC gunmen re-entered the camp after having initially exited it, and as a result of their entrance gunmen from other groups also redeployed.

Majdalani says the PLO proposed a "politically-motivated" initiative according to which all gunmen were supposed to leave the camp.

However, the PFLP-GC insisted on a unilateral solution allowing gunmen affiliated to the group to stay in the camp to maintain security.

"A committee of PLO executive committee members proposed a politically motivated initiative to avoid the camp more destruction and to avoid Palestinian refugees involvement in a civil war.

"The initiative was proposed on Aug. 6 and it was approved by all PLO factions. We started to implement the initiative, but we faced obstacles related to the situation in the region," Majdalani said.

After an agreement between Russia and the United States to try and find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, we tried to adopt a new mechanism for our initiative on Nov. 13," added Majdalani.

"This time," he said, "the obstacle was the PFLP-GC, who attempted to implement a unilateral solution by bringing back gunmen -- both Syrians and Palestinians affiliated to the group -- into the camp to maintain security."

Consequently, the efforts in the camp came to an end in no time and clashes and shelling resumed.

Syrian regime forces besieged the camp anew after the initiative to work out a solution ended in failure.

Majdalani says a Palestinian delegation will visit Syria again soon to try and work out a solution for Palestinian refugee camps.

"We have told the Syrian authorities that no gunmen will be allowed in the Yarmouk camp, and that only Syrian security services will be allowed to carry arms there."

PFLP-GC have repeatedly announced over the last few months that they would soon exit the camp and deploy elsewhere, but so far they have not done so.

After rebels seized control of Yarmouk in December 2012, the camp became embroiled in the armed fighting taking place across Syria and came under heavy regime assault. Regime forces eventually encircled the camp and in July imposed a siege on the camp, leading to a rapdi deterioration of living conditions.

Fatah leader Abbas Zaki told Ma'an in mid-October that Yarmouk's population of 250,000 had dwindled to 18,000 after two and a half years of conflict in Syria.

At least 1,500 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing Syria conflict, and around 250,000 Palestinian refugees have been forced to leave their refugee camps in Syria due to violence in the country.

Prior to the conflict, 600,000 Palestinian refugees lived in Syria.

Between 700-800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the State of Israel, and today their descendants number around five million, spread across the world.
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