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600 Palestinian families flee Syria for Lebanon
Syrian refugees navigate the border Nahr al-Kabir River into Lebanon (The Daily Star)
Syrian refugees navigate the border Nahr al-Kabir River into Lebanon (The Daily Star)
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BEIRUT: Around 600 Palestinian families have crossed from Syria into Lebanon over the past week, a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine official said Sunday.

The mass crossing of about 3,000 people is the latest sign of the expanding effect of the crisis that is now encompassing nearly every part of Syrian society. Most of the displaced came from the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in the suburbs of Damascus, PFLP official Marwan Abdel-Aaal said.

The camp was caught up in fighting that has gripped the city in recent days as opposition forces have launched a new offensive around the country. Last week, Syrian activists reported nearly two dozen people were killed in the camp from mortar fire, likely sparking the flight of refugees.

In Lebanon, the displaced Palestinian families have mostly been received by other Palestinian camps, including Nahr al-Bared, Badawi and Ain al-Hilweh, Abdel-Aaal said.

Abdel-Aaal said many of the families have connections with Palestinians in the Lebanese camps, making for an easier relocation in the country.

More Palestinian families have left their camps in Syria and are trying to cross into Lebanon but are stuck at the Masnaa border crossing because they don’t have proper exit documentation from Syrian officials, Abdel Aaal said.

As of now, Syrian Palestinians are only allowed to visit Lebanese camps for a week at a time, making an extended stay as a refugee problematic. But Abdel-Aaal said the process of exit and entry and relocation to the different camps is being discussed by government officials and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

For months the Palestinian population in Syria has largely been excluded from the conflict between President Bashar Assad’s regime and the armed opposition. But many Palestinians have been forced to take sides in the conflict or flee the unrest as fighting has become bloodier and dragged in more areas of the country, particularly urban ones,

There are more than 486,000 Palestinian refugees and nine Palestinian camps in Syria according the UNRWA, slightly more than the 436,000 refugees in Lebanon. The country has 12 Palestinian camps. Palestinians in Syria have received a number of work benefits and rights from the Syrian government that other Palestinians in the region do not have.

The United Nations is now assisting around 35,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon who were displaced by the 17-month Syrian crisis. Local organizations say there are around 90,000 refugees in the country with hundreds more people coming every week, particularly after recent fighting in major Syrian cities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 06, 2012, on page 4.
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