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5,000 Palestinian refugees flee Syrian shelling of Latakia

Syrians protest at White House

Some 5,000 Palestinian refugees have been forced to flee a camp in the Syrian port of Latakia amid shelling by government forces, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The agency says more than half the Ramel camp's 10,000 residents are on the move, and at least four have died, among some 30 reportedly killed in repression against a popular uprising Latakia in the past three days.

"We have no idea where these people are, we have no idea how many of them are wounded, are dying, are elderly, are women, are children," said UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness. The government's offensive has included tank assaults and the shelling of the port from gunboats. The Palestinian authorities called on the Syrian government to safeguard the lives of refugees in its territory. Palestine Liberation Organization secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo said the attack on the Ramel camp is "part of the crimes against humanity" targeting Palestinians and Syrians alike.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned Syria that the military offensive must stop "immediately and unconditionally." In Washington, White House spokesman John Carney said that Syria's President Bashar al-Assad must "cease the systematic violence, mass arrests and the outright murder of his own people." More than 1,700 people have reportedly been killed and more than 30,000 detained in the five-month uprising against Assad's rule. (BBC News, AFP, July 15)

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