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3 Palestinian families living in desert at Iraq-Jordan border

June 29, 2014 10:39 A.M. (Updated: June 30, 2014 2:01 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Three Palestinian families have been living in the open on the border between Iraq and Jordan for the last seven days after fleeing a refugee camp near Syria, a member of the group told Ma'an.

Speaking to Ma'an via telephone Saturday afternoon, Salih Ahmad appealed to Palestinian authorities to help his and two other families who have been stuck on the border since fleeing the al-Walid refugee camp due to nearby fighting.

Ahmad said that the three families had spent eight years living in al-Walid refugee camp, which was set up in 2006 by Palestinian and Iraqi families who were stranded at the Iraqi-Syrian border due to the intense civil conflict in Iraq that began following the US invasion.

Ahmad said, however, that the three families left the camp for the Iraqi-Jordanian border fearing Iraqi army shells, which landed at the edge of the camp as the Iraqi military launched a new offensive aimed at combating the spread of ISIL, a Wahhabi militant group which recently invaded the country from Syria.

Ahmad added that the families do not have any official documents that could enable them to return to Iraq, a fact which also limits the possibility of their repatriation to Jordan.

About 34,000 Palestinians lived in Iraq before the US invasion, the descendants of Palestinians who were given Iraqi army protection as they fled during the 1948 Nakba when Israel was created and 750,000 Palestinians were expelled or forced from their homes.

As Iraq fell into civil war following the US invasion, however, many of the Palestinians in Iraq were forced to flee their homes, but lacking proper documents beside Iraqi residency cards they were unable to gain admittance to other countries and many ended up in desert refugee camps near the border.

The Minority Rights Group says Palestinians face discrimination in Iraq due to perceptions they were privileged under Saddam Hussein's rule.

Under Hussein, they received subsidized or rent-free housing, free utilities and were exempt from military service.

"Old resentments based on perceived favorable treatment by the Baath regime continue to stoke current prejudice," MRG said in a 2011 report.

"Since 2003, Iraqi officials from the Ministry of Interior have arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured and, in a few cases, forcibly 'disappeared' Palestinian refugees," it added.
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