Palestinians lose more than most in Syrian exodus

Sun Nov 3, 2013 7:45am EST
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By Alexander Dziadosz

AIN AL-HELWEH, Lebanon (Reuters) - Palestinians Mahmoud and Ahmed fled Syria last month for Egypt, where they paid smugglers to bring them to Europe. Once at sea, they were robbed at knifepoint and herded onto an overloaded boat that sank, pitching over 100 into the sea.

The brothers made it back to shore while others drowned, then to be deported in days from a volatile Egypt where anti-Palestinian sentiment runs high. Now at the Lebanese camp of Ain al-Helweh, they face as Palestinians restrictions on their lives far more severe than any other refugees from Syria.

A people all too familiar with refugee life, Palestinians have lost out more than most in the exodus from Syria.

"They grabbed the women and children and tossed us onto the boats like they were tossing rocks or some other worthless thing," said Mahmoud, 23, who asked that his family name not be used. "There was no way to turn back."

"They pulled knives on us and took our money and mobile phones and stripped the gold off the women."

The war has forced some 50,000 Palestinians to flee Syria, a country where they had enjoyed some of the most favorable treatment in all of the Arab world.

The number is a sliver of the 700,000 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but enough to strain overcrowded and volatile camps and stir memories of Lebanon's own civil war; a conflict some see rooted in the arrival of armed Palestinian factions in the decades after Israel's foundation in 1948.


A Palestinian refugee girl from Syria peeps through a tent at Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp near the port-city of Sidon, southern Lebanon October 8, 2013. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho