PFLP chief flees Damascus camp

Damaged cars at the scene of two bomb blasts in Damascus' Qanawat district on 12 December 2012. (Photo: AFP/HO/SANA)

Published Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ahmed Jibril, veteran leader of a Damascus-based Palestinian faction that backs President Bashar Assad, has left the Yarmouk district of the Syrian capital after 12 days of clashes, Syrian rebels and Palestinian sources said on Saturday.

They said Jibril, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, departed Yarmouk with his son bound for the Mediterranean city of Tartous.

The move followed heavy fighting during which Syrian rebels, together with a brigade of Palestinian fighters known as the Storm Brigade, had gained ground in Yarmouk, home to thousands of Palestinian refugees, they said.

Syrian state television quoted a source in the PFLP-GC as denying reports that the rebels had taken over Yarmouk camp, but gave no further details.

The rebels and Palestinian sources said there had been a number of "qualitative defections" from the PFLP-GC ranks during the fighting.

Yarmouk, in southern Damascus, is part of an arc sweeping from the east to southwest of the Syrian capital where government forces have been trying for several weeks to push back rebels.

Jibril's PFLP-GC has maintained strong ties to Assad throughout the 21-month uprising, unlike the Hamas movement whose Damascus-based officials – including leader-in-exile Khaled Meshal – quietly pulled out of Syria as the civil war intensified.

In November, the PLO said that around 600 Palestinians had been killed in the Syrian conflict.

(Reuters, Ma’an)

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