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Rush to cover up bloodshed in Palestinian camp
Published Saturday 20/08/2011 (updated) 28/08/2011 09:53
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Ambassadors discuss beneath a ceiling painted by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo
prior to the opening of an emergency session of the United Nations Human Rights
Council to examine the crackdown in Syria. [AFP/Fabrice Coffrini]
By Hannah Patchett and George Hale

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Syrian forces scrambled Saturday to destroy evidence of last week's bloody crackdown in Latakia that killed dozens of Palestinians and sent refugees fleeing, activists said as UN officials arrived in Damascus.

Security forces were seen scrubbing blood off the streets and walls of al-Ramel refugee camp ahead of the cross-agency mission’s anticipated arrival in the port city, which has been partly evacuated amid the attacks.

The delegation was dispatched from Geneva in response to a damning report to the Security Council on Syrian leader Bashar Assad's "apparent shoot-to-kill" policy. That report had urged an end to excessive use of force and the killing of protestors, torture and ill-treatment of detainees and enforced disappearances.

A European diplomat says the last-minute cleanup in Latakia only confirms existing suspicions and appears timed to coincide with the arrival of UN officials.

It fits "perfectly with the version of events which the regime is denying: that there was an attack on Latakia camp, home to thousands of UN registered Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee as they came under fire," the diplomat told Ma'an.

More than 60 civilians, most of them Palestinians, have died in Latakia since forces launched an offensive last Sunday, activists say. Thousands fled as gunboats were used in the first attack from the sea since the start in March of a pro-democracy revolt that has left some 2,000 civilians dead, according to activists.

Security forces deny using gunboats and say their campaign in Latakia is targeting "armed men" who "opened fire on residents", but witnesses said the assault began after a small group held a peaceful demonstration.

On Saturday, government officials brought Syrian state television crews to one section of Latakia which had been opened to inspection, rights activists told Ma'an. Prior to filming, security forces scrubbed off dried, days-old blood from a street and planted flowers in a bid to present the area as a regular public space.

Assad's "killing machine can wash the blood off the streets but not off its hands," said the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for colleagues in Syria.

"The evidence ... is overwhelming and undeniable," he said.

Badil, a Palestinian refugee rights group in the West Bank, called Sunday for “full transparency and accountability for recent events in Latakia camp, in accordance with international law."

"There must be a credible and independent investigation, in line with international standards, into allegations that crimes against humanity have been committed," Badil stated echoing remarks by frustrated diplomats.

But UN officials say the delegation to Syria is not authorized to investigate allegations of serious abuse by the government. The team's only mandate is to evaluate humanitarian conditions and draw up plans for resuming public services in seven of the hardest-hit areas across the country, they say.

On Sunday, exiled Syrian dissident Radwan Ziadeh urged a UN panel to recommend that the Security Council refer the situation in Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

"Leadership and impartiality must be strongly demonstrated with regards to Syria as it was in the case of Libya," said Ziadeh, who told Ma'an the death toll in Latakia stood at 63 a week after operations began.

Ziadeh, a critic of the UN's relatively limited efforts to challenge Assad, proposed an independent commission to hold investigations "into the crimes committed by the Syrian government in recent months."

Inside Latakia, meanwhile, UN officials say about 7,500 residents of the refugee camp have not returned due to fears of new attacks. The UN refugee agency has tracked down 6,000 Palestinians who fled.

Many of those who remain missing have been locked into a sprawling stadium complex known as Latakia Sports City, activists say. As many as 4,000 people, mostly Palestinians, are believed to be held there.

Syrian rights advocate Ammar Abdulhamid says he is waiting to see if the prisoners will be moved from the stadium when the UN delegation arrives "because, right now, it is still full."
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1 ) Robby / USA
22/08/2011 05:45
"More than 60 civilians, mostly Palestinians, have died in Latakia since forces launched an offensive last Sunday, activists say." - and not a single comment from the Palestinians and anti-Israel crowd on this? No emergency Arab League condemnations? If I were Palestinian I'd be concerned those voices didn't care about me, but only hated Israel.

2 ) To Robby / WB
22/08/2011 15:41
Palestine Liberation Organization secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo denounced the attack on the Ramel camp and said such violence was "part of the crimes against humanity" targeting Palestinians and Syrians alike.

3 ) Bob / Britain
22/08/2011 16:02
For Robby's benifit, Syria although engaging in a brutal clampdown on opposition which has also affected Palestinian refugees, does not occupy Palestine.

4 ) Mel / USA
22/08/2011 16:30
The brave Palestinian people always get it in the neck(or back) when borders are troubled because Israel drove them over those borders,Lebanon,Jordan,Egypt,Syria into concentration camps? Just across every border there is a hell-hole of a refugee camp full of wonderful Palestinian people,and their children,who just want to go home and reclaim what is theirs.I am ever in awe of, respect for, the courage,patience of the persecuted Palestinian people. AWESOME!And they will have their nation back.

5 ) BEN JABO / ISRAEL
22/08/2011 17:30
I don't believe the story of what was alleged to have happened in the Camp

It is totally unelievable that one Arab would raise his hand against another, or is it ?

6 ) Robby / USA
22/08/2011 18:28
2) - Didn't the Arab League immediately denounce the violence in Gaza last week (i.e. denounce Israel)? How long before they even mentioned what Syria is doing? And isn't this the second time there was violence/deaths in Syrian camps (vs Palestinians)? Abbas immediately went to UNSC to "halt Israeli aggression", what about Syrian aggression?

7 ) Robby / USA
22/08/2011 18:30
3 ) Bob / Britain - "Syria although engaging in a brutal clampdown" - seriously? The are killing people, period. So it is worse to dispute land then kill people?

8 ) Robby / USA
22/08/2011 18:33
4 ) Mel / USA - Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Syria put (and keep them) in what you are calling l didn't put them in "concentration camps", and have kept them there for generations. It's call apartheid.

9 ) Robert Haymond / Israel/Canada
22/08/2011 22:11
Mel & Robby: It's worse than what you write. There continue to be "refugee camps" in both the Westbank and Gaza. Arabs like it when they can utilize fellow Arabs for purposes of propaganda and funding. After the War of Independence, 900,000 North African and Mideastern Jews were sent packing, their property confiscated and their lives threatened if they did not leave. Within ten very hard years, all were settled in Israel. That's the difference between the the two socieities.

10 ) John / USA
23/08/2011 03:08
To the Zionist commentators: Please do not concern yourselves with Palestinian suffering at the hands of fellow Arabs. Soon Palestinians will be returning home and so will you.

11 ) M. / Occupied Palestine
23/08/2011 11:36
The pattern of comments by pro-israel commenters is fascinating, basically its :"X is bad, why do you say Israel is bad", basically justifying a wrong by another wrong!

12 ) Robby / USA
23/08/2011 15:34
11 ) - Please tell me where I justified anything? I said "If I were Palestinian I'd be concerned those voices didn't care about me, but only hated Israel." - just how is that justifying anything? In fact I pointed out the opposite, the anti-Israel people justify denying Palestinians born in Arab countries rights for what reason - to blame Israel, pure and simple. The double standard is glaringly obvious.
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