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Bombing kills 7 in Syria refugee camp

Jan. 16, 2014 6:54 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 19, 2014 10:38 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Seven Palestinian refugees were killed and dozens injured late Thursday in a bombing that targeted Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.

The head of the Omari Battalion, a Free Syrian Army militant group, told Ma'an that a military helicopter dropped an explosive barrel on houses in the "Palestine Park" area of the camp.

The injured were still being removed from the debris and taken to hospitals, Ismail Abu Hani al-Omari said.

The explosion destroyed three buildings and caused extensive damage, al-Omari said.

Militants in the village of Yalda west of Yarmouk hit the helicopter with a missile after it struck the camp, he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that only four people were killed in the barrel bombing, and that the Syrian air force was responsible.

The Observatory added that two camp residents had died as a result of malnutrition Thursday, bringing the total deaths related to food and medicine shortages to more than 50 in recent months.

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 rapid 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.

The Syrian conflict, which began as peaceful protests in March 2011 but developed into a civil war, has killed more than 130,000 people and prompted millions to flee their homes.

More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants -- were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.

AFP contributed to this report.
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