Voicing alarm at a deadly attack by armed militia on a predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood in Baghdad, the United Nations refugee agency today renewed its call for the international community to provide a humanitarian solution for Palestinians trying to flee Iraq.
At least nine people, including several children, were reportedly killed and many others were wounded when local militia shelled the Al Baladiya area of the Iraqi capital for three hours yesterday, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
There was no attempt by Iraqi police or the United States-led Multi-National Forces inside the strife-torn country to stop the attack, UNHCR said, and the militia also blocked ambulances from taking the dead and wounded to hospital.
Briefing journalists in Geneva, UNHCR deputy director for the region Radhouane Nouicer said the agency was dismayed at the lack of protection afforded to Palestinians living in Iraq.
Attacks against Palestinians have surged since Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled in 2003, especially after the bombing of a key Shiite Muslim mosque in Samarra in February. Some Palestinians received preferential treatment under the former dictator and they have since become targets.
Only about 15,000 Palestinians are thought to remain in Iraq, down from an estimated 34,000 three years ago. More than 350 remain stranded in desperate conditions on the border with Syria, and UNHCR has appealed repeatedly for countries to offer refuge.
“They have very limited freedom of movement and no possibility to leave the country – unlike Iraqis – [or] to find a safe haven, nor any community to protect them,” Mr. Nouicer said.
He added that discussions with Iraqi authorities have so far yielded little optimism about what can be done for the Palestinians.
“We are urgently appealing to the Iraqi Government and the Multi-National Forces to provide protection and safety or an alternative safe location for this targeted group. We also ask the world to stop turning their back and provide a humane solution.”