BEIRUT

Middle East

Abbas to U.N.: help Syria refugees enter Palestinian territory

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 file photo, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

RAMALLAH, West Bank: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday urged the international community to help Palestinian refugees fleeing fighting in camps in Syria to enter the West Bank and Gaza.

"Mahmud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine, requested Wednesday that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the international community enable our people in Syria to enter Palestinian territory," a statement carried on the official WAFA news agency said.

He said help was needed "because of the exposure of Palestinian camps to the bloody conflict in Syria."

Abbas's call came after tens of thousands of Palestinians fled the Yarmuk district of south Damascus, home to one of 12 camps in Syria which host Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Yarmuk was bombed for the first time on Sunday resulting in the deaths of at least eight civilians, and prompting an exodus from the camp and surrounding area.

Abbas and Gaza's Hamas rulers condemned the attack, with the Palestinian president calling for bombing of the camp to stop "immediately."

Hamas, which was once headquartered in Damascus but has gradually broken with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, called the attack a "crime."

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), there are 486,000 Palestine refugees living in nine official and three unofficial camps across Syria.

The Palestinians have tried to remain neutral in the deadly conflict between Assad's regime and rebel forces, a position Abbas emphasised again on Wednesday.

Abbas "stressed the Palestinian position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries," the statement on WAFA said.

 

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