Thousands of Palestinians return to Damascus refugee camp

Published Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thousands of Palestinians returned on Thursday to a refugee camp in Damascus that has become a battle ground, as UN investigators warned of an openly sectarian conflict that threatens whole communities.

Four days on from a first air strike on Yarmouk refugee camp, "thousands of Palestinians walked across army checkpoints at the entrance to the camp to return home, rather than sleep outside in the cold and under the rain," an aid worker in the camp said.

According to one resident and amateur video posted online, refugees sang traditional Palestinian songs, and chanted: "We are returning to Yarmouk camp".

Another resident said most the fighters of the rebel Free Syrian Army that had been deployed in their thousands days earlier had pulled out of Yarmouk.

"There are a couple of fighters in each alley way, but they're drinking tea and smoking the nargileh (water-pipe)," the resident told AFP.

In Geneva, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) said as many as 100,000 Palestinians may have fled Yarmouk in the past few days.

The dramatic turn of events in Damascus in recent days was followed by UN findings that Syria's conflict has become overtly sectarian.

"As battles between government forces and anti-government armed groups approach the end of their second year, the conflict has become overtly sectarian in nature," the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in a report published on Thursday.

"As the conflict drags on, the parties have become ever more violent and unpredictable, which has led to their conduct increasingly being in breach of international law," it said.

(AFP)

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