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Palestinian Refugees Fleeing Iraq Reach Sanctuary in Syria

May 10, 2006|From the Associated Press

TANAF, Syria — Nearly 250 Palestinian refugees fleeing violence and death threats in Iraq arrived in Syria on Tuesday, after most had been stranded for weeks in a desert border area because Jordan refused to admit them.

The Palestinians said their community in Iraq was being targeted by armed groups -- although some said they were fleeing general instability.

"Every Palestinian in Iraq is targeted. I walk in the street and I don't carry any document showing that I am Palestinian for fear of being killed," Iyhab Tim said.

Syria agreed to take the refugees after an appeal from Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, and on Tuesday nine buses carried the Palestinians through the Tanaf border crossing, 185 miles northeast of Damascus, Syria's capital.

Most of the refugees had been stranded on Iraq's border with Jordan since March. But when Syria's decision became known, 63 more Palestinians living in Iraq joined the group, along with 41 others who had been stranded at the Iraqi-Syrian border for five days. They brought the group to a total of 244 people, including about 40 women and 70 children.

The refugees said they did not know who the armed groups targeting them were or why they were being threatened.

Scores of Iraqis, believing Palestinians to be supporters of Saddam Hussein, attacked their homes in Baghdad after the regime's fall. The attacks forced many Palestinians to flee the country or go into hiding.

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