President Assad Warns Palestinians Not to Aid Rebels

Up to this point, the Syrian government and President Bashar Assad has refrained from getting Syria’s population of a half million Palestinian involved in the country’s conflict, but that changed today as Syrian tanks moved into the largest Palestinian camp in Damascus and President Assad warned Palestinians not to help the insurgents.

Palestinians have long considered Syria as a refuge as they fled the oppressive conditions they are forced by the Israelis to live under in Gaza. Because Syria has allowed them to move in and establish communities, the Palestinians have shown loyalty to the government. But that is changing, as some Palestinians have begun providing assistance to the rebels, much to Assad’s chagrin.

As a result, Syrian forces decided to unleash an air strike on a mosque in the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, where most of the Palestinian refugees live. The air strike was thought to have killed 20 people and injured dozens more—and led to many Palestinians fleeing the camp, seeking refuge elsewhere.

Assad sent out a warning to the Palestinians, using the Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA. The warning came in a report on a telephone conversation between the country’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations concerning the general situation in Syria and specifically the Yarmouk neighborhood.

SANA quoted Moallem as telling Ban that mayhem had been convulsing Yarmouk for days because of infiltrations from terrorist groups, the government’s blanket description for insurgents.

“The minister also stressed that Palestinians should not shelter or help terrorist groups who are outsiders to the camp, and should work on evicting them,” SANA said.

Skirmishes between Palestinian groups allied with the rebel Free Syria Army and other factions loyal to the Assad regime continued on Monday, a day after the deadly air strike. Fearing that the Syrian army would soon enter in pursuit of rebel groups, many Palestinians fled the camp. Many used taxis and buses to get to Lebanon, where officials at the Masnaa border crossing reported that several hundred Syrian Palestinians had arrived seeking refuge.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group based in Gaza, which has abandoned its headquarters in Damascus and turned on Assad, has warned Assad to keep the Palestinians out of the conflict.
Quoting the Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Taher al-Nunu, the Palestinian news organisation, Ma’an, condemned the regime air strike on Yarmouk. Hamas’s deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, now based in Egypt, demanded that all Palestinians and Syrian civilians be kept out of the fighting.

Meanwhile, a PLO official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, called on the international community to intervene in Syria’s “criminal murder and destruction.”

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