Syria: Yarmouk Camp Settlement Falters

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A fighter of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) squats next to the covered body of an alleged foreign rebel fighter in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus on September 12, 2013. (Photo: AFP - Anwar Amro)

By: Laith al-Khatib

Published Friday, November 15, 2013

An attempt to end the fighting in Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus suffered a setback when opposition fighters demanded that they retain a role in managing the camp’s affairs.

Damascus – A settlement involving intense negotiation mediated by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to end the fighting in Yarmouk camp suffered a setback on Tuesday, November 13, after opposition fighters close to Hamas insisted that they be included among the groups that will subsequently manage the affairs of the camp.

PLO officials had recently arrived at a preliminary agreement with the various Palestinian factions and opposition armed groups that would lead to a ceasefire.

According to the agreement, “committees” made up of all the Palestinian factions – with the exception of the Islamist Hamas and the pro-regime General Command group – would then enter the camp to maintain security.

However, a first step to evacuate civilians from the camp on Tuesday morning failed, despite the PLO’s best efforts. Opposition fighters did all they could to prevent local residents from leaving by either taking their identification papers or firing at them if they tried to bypass their checkpoints.

Sources close to the negotiations said that Hamas negotiators objected to the deal due to the participation of Fateh al-Intifada faction in the proposed security committees.

“The negotiations with the fighters have gone nowhere,” said Palestine’s ambassador to Syria, Anwar Abdul Hadi, “due to their insistence that they be included in the administration of the camp.”

He added that the regime looked favorably upon a possible deal, promising to return all services to the camp once the armed groups pull out.

Due to the government offensive underway in the area, the ambassador explained, “the fighters have fled from the town of al-Sbaynah in the direction of the camp,” prompting the PLO to step up its efforts to find a solution before its too late.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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