Pro-Syrian Palestinian group kills 11 refugees: sources

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 07, 2011 1:23 PM
Pro-Syrian Palestinian group kills 11 refugees: sources

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - Gunmen from a Palestinian faction loyal to Syria shot dead at least 11 Palestinians at a refugee camp near Damascus Monday in a dispute over the group's backing for Damascus, Palestinian sources said Tuesday.

Hundreds of angry refugees had tried to storm the headquarters of the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) in Yarmouk camp on the edges of Damascus.

They accused the group of sacrificing Palestinian lives by encouraging protesters to demonstrate at the Golan Heights, where several were shot by Israeli forces.

Syria said 23 people, including a woman and a child, were killed and 350 wounded Sunday when Israeli troops fired on Palestinian protesters who surged against the fortified boundary fence on Syria's Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel, with U.S. backing, accused Syria of orchestrating deadly confrontations on a ceasefire line between the two countries as a distraction from Damascus's bloody crackdown on an 11-week-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

"There has been a mood of deep frustration in the camp since Friday that Palestinian blood is cheap and Palestinians were being used by the Syrian regime to deflect attention from its internal crisis," one of the sources at the camp said.

He was referring to sympathy among Palestinian refugees for the plight of Syrian protesters calling for political freedoms in demonstrations during which hundreds of civilians have been killed by security forces, according to human rights groups.

The sources said that the unrest at the camp began when mourners at a funeral for eight Palestinians killed in the Golan turned into a protest against leftist pro-Syrian Palestinian factions during which mourners threw stones at Palestinian figures who had praised Assad.

Hundreds of refugees armed with sticks and stones then headed to the PFLP-GC headquarters and tried to storm it. Several protesters managed to get in and killed one PFLP-GC gunman, they added.

"The confrontation lasted from the afternoon to well after midnight," another source said.

Like several other Palestinian factions in Syria, the PFLP-GC, which is headed by veteran guerrilla leader Ahmad Jibreel, is regarded as a terrorist organization by the United States.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman)