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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 May 2006, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Palestinians flee Iraq for Syria
Palestinian refugees in Syria
The Palestinians say they received death threats in Iraq
More than 200 Palestinians fleeing Iraq have been allowed to leave the country and enter Syria.

They had spent weeks stranded at the desert border crossing with Jordan, which had refused to let them in.

The 244 refugees crossed the Iraqi border into Syria in nine buses. They say they have received death threats in Iraq and told to leave the country.

In March, the UN expressed increasing concern about the worsening situation of Palestinians living in Baghdad.

I have been stuck on the border since 19 March. I am extremely glad to find a country to live in at a time when all the Arabs have rejected us
Iyhab Tim

Palestinians in Iraq have felt especially vulnerable as they were perceived to have been treated favourably by the government of Saddam Hussein.

Palestinians' healthcare, school and housing was subsidised and many received government jobs, leading to resentment among many Iraqis.

The UNHCR estimates about 34,000 Palestinians currently live in Iraq. Many arrived after the Arab-Israeli wars in 1948 and 1967.

Hamas role

The 244 refugees included 40 women and 70 children.

"I have been stuck on the border since 19 March. I am extremely glad to find a country to live in at a time when all the Arabs have rejected us," one of the Palestinians, Iyhab Tim, told the Associated Press (AP) news agency.

Abu Hassan, a Hamas member based in Syria told the BBC News website that Hamas and the Palestinian administration had pressed the Syrian government to accept the refugees.

AP reports that the refugees arrived at the al-Tanaf border crossing where they were met by Syrian officials and three representatives of the militant Palestinian group.

The refugees are to be housed initially in a Palestinian refugee camp in the Hasake area of northern Syria.

The International Organization for Migration organised a convoy of nine buses and two trucks to transport the refugees into Syria. Medical support was also provided.

Responsibility for the Palestinians was then passed to Unrwa, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.


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