Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Up to 12 killed as Palestinian refugees are drawn into Syria revolt

Phil Sands
Jun 8, 2011
The National

"DAMASCUS // Up to a dozen protesting Palestinians have been killed by security guards in a Damascus suburb, in a sign that Syria's large Palestinian refugee community is slowly being sucked into an increasingly bloody national uprising.

The shootings took place on Monday afternoon and evening, according to residents of the sprawling Yarmouk Camp neighbourhood, when a large crowd of Palestinians descended on the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC).

Thousands strong, the crowd threw stones at the faction's offices before setting fire to the building and cars.

PFLP-GC security guards - all Palestinians, not Syrians - armed with assault rifles then shot directly into the crowd.

"They were shooting at people, not above their heads. Many people were killed and wounded," said Abu Amar, a 50-year-old Palestinian who lives close by and was hit by a ricochet while trying to calm the situation.....

The PFLP-GC is considered by Palestinians in Syria to be close to the Syrian security services, and some insist it is nothing more than a branch of Syria's mukhabarat, or secret police.....

Suspicions about the group have only increased after the Naksa protest, which, critics say, was designed to divert attention away from the Syrian government's domestic crackdown in which human rights groups say more than 1,000 civilians died, and direct national ire at Israel, the traditional enemy.

"There is a reason why the PFLP-GC office was burned, while the Hamas office was not touched," said an independent Syrian political analyst specialising in Palestinian affairs. "Hamas has remained independent while the PFLP has openly sided with the Syrian government.

"The Palestinian people were sending a strong message to everyone that they do not want to be used as a bargaining chip in an internal Syrian argument."

However, more marches on the Golan Heights seem assured. Tishreen, a Syrian government-run newspaper, yesterday warned Israel to expect a similar event "at any time". Syria and Israel have been at war for decades over the Jewish state's illegal annexation of the Golan Heights.

More protests could backfire on the Syrian authorities, the independent analyst said, with ordinary Palestinian refugees even being pushed to joining anti-government demonstrations.

"Most Palestinians sympathise with the protesters but they have kept quiet because they say it is not their business to interfere," he said. "But if they start being used as a pawn in those protests, they may decide the time has come to pick a side, and they might not choose the government's."...."

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