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Violence at Palestinian camp funerals in Syria leaves 20 dead

Funerals in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near the Syrian capital of Damascus turned violent late Monday as clashes erupted between camp residents and a Syrian-backed Palestinian faction, leading to the deaths of as many as 20 people, according to Palestinian sources and amateur video posted on the Internet.

Tension rose during a funeral procession when mourners in the camp denounced the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, General Command, alleging that the faction had persuaded the mourners’ relatives to participate in Sunday’s deadly demonstrations near the Syrian-Israeli border, said an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian news outlets.

Sunday’s violence, in which dozens died in the border clash, coincided with the 44th anniversary of Israel’s capture of the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Middle East War. The demonstration was the second such protest along the typically quiet border in less than a month. The militant Palestinian faction is backed by Syria and based in Damascus.

Holding the faction responsible for Sunday’s deaths, angry demonstrators attacked the group’s headquarters and burned two cars, the reports said. In retaliation, the faction’s gunmen opened fire on the mourners, killing 14 to 20 people, the Palestinian sources said. Video footage showed terrified young men scurrying for shelter amid a hail of gunfire.

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A faction official in Beirut who was reached by telephone refused to comment. But other Palestinians said Monday’s events, details of which emerged Tuesday, raised questions about Syria’s long-stated support for the Palestinian cause.

The repeated mobilization of Palestinian protesters, who were given unprecedented freedom to approach the Syrian border with the Israeli-occupied Golan, has fueled speculation that the regime in Damascus is fomenting chaos to take international focus off the crackdowns against protests across Syria. Some Palestinian refugees share that view.

“They are bargaining with the blood of Palestinians to suit the Syrian regime,” said the PLO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Once again, the Palestinian struggle has fallen victim to the agenda of an Arab regime.”

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority “condemned the work of armed groups belonging to the PFLP-GC, who used live ammunition to shoot at young protesters in Yarmouk camp as they were participating in a funeral procession for Palestinians who had fallen during protests in the Golan Heights on Sunday.”

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Hajjar is a special correspondent.


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