Foreign fighters using Yarmouk as base: ex-Arafat aide

Published Saturday, January 5, 2013

Foreign nationals are using the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus as a base to fight the Syrian government, a former adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Saturday.

“We're calling committees in the camp and people there told us that foreigners are shooting at anyone that moves,” Bassam Abu Sharif told Palestine's Ma'an news agency.

“They're using the camp and the people of the camp as shields to attack government forces.”

Abu Sharif called on the United Nations to declare the camp a disaster area and dispatch international troops to protect civilians.

On Thursday, the camp's popular committees said militants in the camp have been stealing from residents, burning down their houses and harassing them. The committees did not identify the culprits.

The vast majority of Palestinians in Yarmouk were said to have fled the refugee camp in mid-December amid violent clashes between rebels and the pro-government Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), and government airstrikes.

Located on the outskirts of Damascus, Yarmouk is the largest Palestinian camp in Syria, with more than 150,000 registered refugees.

Thousands were reported to have returned since fighting erupted, according to residents and activist sources.

(Ma'an, Al-Akhbar)

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