Syria: Battle for Yarmouk rages as Palestinians flee to Lebanon
A Palestinian girl, who along with other families who fled the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital of Damascus, holds up a sign during a rally in front on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) offices in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain El-Helweh on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese city of Sidon on Tuesday (AFP PHOTO/MAHMOUD ZAYYAT)
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Civilians continued to flee the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee district in Damascus on Wednesday as fighting raged between Syrian rebels and Palestinian fighters backing the Syrian regime.
Mortars hit the camp on Tuesday, following reports of the first use of aerial bombardment of the area by the regime on Sunday. Government troops then surrounded the camp, preventing anyone from leaving.
Later on Tuesday, reports emerged that rebels had taken control of the camp, but the information could not be independently verified.
The battle for Yarmouk has sent hundreds of Palestinians into Lebanon, where some have taken refuge at the infamous Shatila refugee camp, within Beirut.
Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday that Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, called for the Yarmouk refugees to be allowed in to the West Bank.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem claimed, in a state media broadcast, that the fighting was instigated by the Jabhat al-Nusra group, which was designated as a terrorist organisation by the U.S. last week.
Yarmouk was home to around 150,000 Palestinians, according to official estimates by UN refugee agency, UNRWA, as well as displaced Syrians from the Golan heights and nearby neighborhoods in Damascus, since fighting began in the capital.
Meanwhile, in a possible sign of Russia’s changing attitude toward the Syrian crisis, Moscow sent warships to the Mediterranean to prepare for a potential evacuation of its citizens from Syria, according to media reports on Tuesday.