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Iraq: Alarm over killings of Palestinians

UN agency voices alarm over killings, intimidation of Palestinians in Iraq

The United Nations refugee agency voiced alarm today over a fresh spate of killings, kidnappings and threats in Baghdad that have led to mounting fear among Iraq’s 24,000-strong Palestinian refugee community, sending hundreds of them fleeing to border areas.

“The latest murders and kidnappings have stoked mounting fear, panic and anger among the Palestinians,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva, citing reports that at least six Palestinians have been killed in the Iraqi capital in the last two weeks.

Some Palestinians received preferential treatment under the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and supported his 1990 invasion of Kuwait. But they have become targets since Saddam's overthrow in 2003. The community comprises those who fled to Iraq from their homes in newly created Israel in 1948 and others born in the country.

Last Sunday, some 20 armed assailants entered a house, took a Palestinian man into the garden and shot him dead in front of his family.

In an earlier case, another Palestinian man was found dead shortly after being abducted on 15 May and a subsequent statement warned Palestinians to leave Iraq within 10 days or “face the same fate as the criminals in other areas.” The unsigned statement said “you have been warned” and “you will be judged fiercely.”

Since February, killings, intimidation and kidnapping of Palestinians in Baghdad have been rife. Hundreds have fled to the Iraqi-Syrian border hoping to find sanctuary. In early May, Syria allowed 287 Palestinians to enter after they had been refused entry to Jordan.

“UNHCR has been trying to negotiate entry for other scared Palestinians, but the Syrian Government has told us no newcomers will be accepted,” Mr. Redmond said.

A total of 212 Palestinians, including children and pregnant women, have fled Baghdad since 10 May and are stranded at the border. UNHCR and the Syrian Red Crescent are providing food, basic items and medical care to the group, who are refusing to return to Baghdad.

UNHCR has also received reports that Palestinians have been unable to renew their residency permits since 28 March, affecting their freedom of movement and security.

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