Is Abbas securing the elusive right of return for Syria's Palestinian refugees?

Published December 20th, 2012 - 09:38 GMT
The Palestinian right of return could be about to go into effect if Abbas has his way. (Image courtesy of Reuters)
The Palestinian right of return could be about to go into effect if Abbas has his way. (Image courtesy of Reuters)

Palestinian refugees fleeing violence in camps in Syria should receive international help to enter the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.

Abbas called on the United Nations to lend a helping hand to Palestinian refugees who have been embroiled in deadly fighting in the past week at the Yarmouk camp in Damascus.

“Mahmoud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine, requested Wednesday that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the international community enable our people in Syria to enter Palestinian territory,” a statement carried on the official WAFA news agency said.

He said help was needed “because of the exposure of Palestinian camps to the bloody conflict in Syria.” 

Abbas’s call came after tens of thousands of Palestinians fled the Yarmouk district of south Damascus, home to one of 12 camps in Syria which host Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Yarmouk was bombed for the first time on Sunday resulting in the deaths of at least eight civilians, and prompting an exodus from the camp and surrounding area.

Abbas and Gaza’s Hamas rulers condemned the attack, with the Palestinian president calling for bombing of the camp to stop “immediately.”

Hamas, which was once headquartered in Damascus but has gradually broken with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, called the attack a “crime.”

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), there are 486,000 Palestine refugees living in nine official and three unofficial camps across Syria.

The Palestinians have tried to remain neutral in the deadly conflict between Assad’s regime and rebel forces, a position Abbas emphasized again on Wednesday.

Abbas “stressed the Palestinian position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries,” the statement on WAFA said.

 

What do you think? Is Abbas exploiting the Syrian conflict for the Palestinian cause? Or is he just playing a smart and practical move in the interests of a distressed Palestinian population, by trying to deliver them back to the 'promised' land.


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