The United Nations expressed concern on Tuesday about the fate of 89 Palestinians, nearly half of them children, who fled Baghdad and have been stuck in no man’s land on the Iraqi-Jordanian border since Sunday, as the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) held the US occupation troops in Iraq “responsible” for the safety of about 34,000 Palestinians living in the country.

Jordan, fearful of a large influx from 34,000 Palestinian refugees living in Iraq, unilaterally closed the border on Sunday after a busload of Palestinians arrived.

The group, which also includes two elderly people and three with medical problems, was in an “extremely precarious situation” in the harsh desert climate, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

“We understand the group has little shelter and meagre food supplies. UNHCR’s ability to protect and assist these refugees is extremely difficult because of our limited access to the border area,” spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.

Some of the Palestinians who are currently stranded at the no- man's land between Iraq and Jordan told Jordanian newspapers that they were without water, food or shelter.

They said the Jordanian government prevented them from proceeding to the Rweished refugee camp, about 60 kilometres inside Jordanian territory that was set up in cooperation with the United Nations on the eve of the US-led war on Iraq three years ago.

A total of about 350 refugees, mostly Palestinians, are still living at the Rweished camp with the hopes to be allowed to live in Jordan or other Arab countries, according to Yara Sharif, spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Amman.

UNHCR Warns of Mass Exodus

The UNHCR warned of a mass exodus of Palestinians from Iraq.

Yara Sharif confirmed the fear and said a UNHCR panel was on Tuesday appraising the conditions of the refugees prior to discussing how to deal with their case.

“We have concerns that the situation could aggravate with the arrival of more Palestinians,” Sharif said.

UNCHR chief Antonio Guterres sent a message to the interim Iraqi President Jalal Talabani “reminding him of the Iraqi government's obligation to provide protection” to all communities in the country, Sharif said, adding that Guterres also urged the Iraqi government to come up with measures to “improve the living conditions of Palestinians.”

Palestinians Hold US Responsible

In a statement to the media, Palestinian envoy in Amman Atta al-Khairy urged an “immediate intervention” by the US administration and the United Nations to put an end to attacks against Palestinians in Iraq.

“Palestinians in Iraq are being exposed to aggression and oppression,” he said.

“This is happening at a time when US troops there should be responsible for the safety of Palestinians, given the situation currently prevailing in Iraq,” al-Khairy added.

Meanwhile Jordan said the unilateral closure of its border with Iraq was an “organizational step.”

According to the official spokesman of the Jordan's Public Security Department Major Bashir al-Daaja, the Jordanian authorities have unilaterally closed the border with Iraq to traffic in both directions as an “organizational step.”

“There are passengers and people who do not carry valid official documents that prove their nationality. The border was closed to enable them to enter Jordan in a legal manner,” Daaja told Jordan’s Arabic daily Al-Dustour.

Hamas Appeals for Jordanian, Iraqi Help

Separately Hamas political chief, Khaled Mishaal, who is currently touring a number of Arab countries in the Gulf, called Tuesday on King Abdullah II of Jordan and the Iraqi government to ensure the safety of Palestinian refugees stranded on the Jordanian-Iraqi boarder.

“I call on King Abdullah (II) and the Jordanian government to assist the Palestinian families stranded on their border with Iraq after they were allowed to leave their homes, but denied return,” he told reporters in the Bahraini capital of Manama during a press conference on Tuesday.

“I also call on the Iraqi government to ensure the safety of Palestinians who fled to avoid the current situation there, they can not be held responsible for the actions of the former regime,” he said.

The United Nations reported on Tuesday that killings of more Palestinians in Iraq.

“Over the past week, we have received reports that up to 10 Palestinians have been killed in Baghdad and several have been kidnapped,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

“A Palestinian human rights group in Baghdad advised us yesterday that many members of the Palestinian community are thinking of leaving the city and heading toward the borders to seek refuge abroad,” Redmond added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas early in March asked various Iraqi groups and officials to intervene to stop the killings of Palestinians in Iraq, following the killing of four Palestinians who were kidnapped and found dead in Baghdad, including Nawaf Moussa, a Palestinian imam in a Baghdad mosque.

Former ambassador of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to Iraq, Azzam al-Ahmad, was earlier quoted as saying that Palestinian refugees in Iraq are being targeted on a regular basis.

Some 23,000 Palestinians were registered by UNHCR in Baghdad following the United States-led invasion in 2003. Smaller groups, which have not been registered, reside in Mosul in the north and Basrah in the south. In all, the Iraqi government estimates that there are at least 34,000 Palestinians in Iraq, Palestinian official news agency, WAFA, quoted the UN News Center as reporting.

Source: PMC- 22/03/2006
Fearing that large numbers of Palestinian refugees from Iraq might seek refuge in Jordan from persecution through Shiite militia, Jordan closed its borders with Iraq. A busload of Palestinian refugees had arrived yesterday at the Jordanian border and were immediately confined to a camp inside the no-man's land between Jordan and Iraq set up by the Jordanian government on the eve of the US-led invasion of Iraq.

To prevent Palestinian refugees from Iraq from reaching Jordan, the first wave of refugees who arrived at the no-man's land in 2003 has since been deported to Ruweished concentration camp, about 60 km inside Jordan, from which people are forbidden to leave and are inadequately attended to by the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Source: Arab Monitor- 20/3/2006
Palestinian refugees living in Jordan are demanding they be allowed to vote in the Palestinian legislative elections on Wednesday, according to Arabic media sources.

Refugees residing in Jordan have expressed concern that under pressure from Israel and the United States, the elected Palestinian Authority (P.A.) will make concessions on the right of return.

The refugees said it is unjust to bar more than a million refugees in Jordan from participating in the elections and limiting the vote to the West Bank and Gaza.

According to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), there are more than 1.5 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan. These Palestinian were granted full citizenship and they have the right to vote for the Jordanian government.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian diplomatic representative in Amman, ‘Atallah Kheiri, said that in accord with instructions from the Palestinian Legislative Commission, there will be no voting stations outside the Palestinian territories.

According to the Jordanian paper A-Rai, Palestinians residing abroad, including diplomats, will have to return to the West Bank or Gaza if they wish to cast their ballot, Kheiri said.

Source: The Media Line- 24/1/2006
Palestinian sources revealed on Tuesday that the UNRWA has made a decision to reduce food rations distributed every three months to the refugees. The decision aims at paving the way, the sources added, for the complete cancellation of all food rations within the next two years.

According to the sources, the UNRWA director in Lebanon, Richard Cook, recently issued a decision stipulating a 55-percent reduction in food rations. They added that flour, which had formerly been supplied alongside other foods, will no longer be distributed.

Food rations have been distributed to Palestinian refugees since 1948, but over the years donor countries have decreased their contributions, resulting in a reduction of available funds with which to provide the rations. Palestinian sources were concerned by information leaked from UNRWA headquarters that services extended to refugees, such as the rations and health care, would end in the coming two years, especially after UNRWA slashed the number of workers who distribute the rations.

Currently, a single team of 10 UNRWA employees handle the rations distribution in each of the five districts where refugee camps are located in Lebanon, whereas previously teams of 10 were present in each camp.
UNRWA members could not be contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, Palestinian popular committees continued their protest against a related UNRWA decision to cut medical coverage, once more closing down the agency's clinics and health centers in refugee camps across the country, a claim the UNRWA refutes.

The protests were stepped up after a meeting scheduled to be held in Sidon between Cook and Palestinian Liberation Organization committees was canceled and relocated to UNRWA headquarters in Beirut.
Lieutenant Colonel Abu Said al-Youssef, a member of the Higher Follow-Up Committee of popular committees in Lebanon, said the Palestinians have yet to see a positive response from Cook, despite contacts made by the PLO commander in Lebanon and the popular committees.

Youssef said the protests will continue until the UNRWA meets the refugees' "fair" demands, most notably the reversal of this month's decision to partner with the Beirut General University Hospital (BGUH) instead of the Hammoud Hospital in Sidon.

The committees' information official Abu Rabih Derbas said: "Violating our people's rights for services is strictly forbidden," adding that the refugees will counter "UNRWA's arbitrary policy with further popular action."
The health-care decision reportedly also includes a care reduction to a third-grade level.

But according to a UNRWA statement issued in response to an article published in Tuesday's edition of The Daily Star, the "UNRWA has not reduced the quality nor quantity of medical care provided to Palestinian refugees, rather the contrary."

The statement read: "A new agreement has indeed been signed between UNRWA and the BGUH for the treatment of cold cases of tertiary nature (i.e. treatment of a specialized nature requiring multi-specialty interventions).
"The decision was made with the best interests of the Palestinian refugee patients in mind, because it gives him or her first-class treatment at a very reasonable cost, whilst UNRWA's contribution remains the same, thereby reducing the cost to the patient.

"In addition, the majority of patients treated, who come from all over Lebanon, will have less distance to travel.
"UNRWA would like, particularly, to point out that this applies to tertiary care and that all arrangements for the provision of secondary hospital care, i.e. uncomplicated cases, and for open-heart surgery, remain the same as in previous years, provided at contracted hospitals in each area."

The statement further stressed that UNRWA "is not handing over its medical services to the government health-care system, but has taken advantage of high-quality services provided at a competitive price, thereby improving its services to Palestine refugees.

The statement indicated that, contrary to Palestinian claims that certain medicines were no longer available, "the agency confirms that all essential drugs, for both acute and chronic needs, in accordance with the World Health Organization's list of essential drugs, are available at all UNRWA health centers."

The director of UNRWA affairs in Lebanon is to meet with Palestinian Popular Committees and senior representatives of the refugee community in "the next few days to further explain the Agency's position on these issues," the statement said.

Source: Mohammed Zaatari - Daily Star staff- 18/1/2006
As children in the street chanted "Gaza is liberated," 65-year-old Ayed Suleiman Abu-Hashish broke into tears.

"I can't wait to go back," he said. "I bet it has changed a lot since I left nearly 40 years ago."

For many in this squalid refugee camp, Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip, which began Monday, revived hopes they could return to homes they fled in the 1967 Middle East War. It was unlikely that would happen anytime soon, however.

The fate of refugees - many who also fled land that made up the state of Israel before the war - still must be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians in so-called final-status talks.

Also at issue in those thorny talks will be the status of Jerusalem, claimed by Palestinians as
their capital but under Israeli control since 1967.

In the meantime, even after the Gaza withdrawal, Israel still commands all entry points into the strip and the West Bank, meaning it can prevent refugees from returning.

Israel has not recognized a general Palestinian "right of return," and was likely to bar the bulk
of refugees from returning to Gaza or the West Bank, from where Israel has also pledged to
withdraw four settlements. So far, Israel has indicated willingness only to allow a limited
number of Arabs to join relatives in pre-1967 Israel under a family reunification plan.

At Gaza Camp's only coffee shop, regulars received free refreshments as they rejoiced over
the Israeli withdrawal.

In one smoke-filled corner, 67-year-old Mohammad al-Ghazawi, wearing a traditional
white-and-black-checked headdress, quizzed his friends.

"Do you think the Israelis will allow us back in Gaza?" he asked, sipping spiced Arabic coffee.

"No" was the quick answer from Ismail Abu-Taha, puffing on a water pipe.

"The Israelis are only maneuvering to show the world that they're giving back lands to
Palestinians, but we're not in their books. We have long been forgotten," he said.

Two blocks away, Umm Mohammad, 72, disagreed.

"Why would they give back the land if they won't allow its owners to go live in it? Don't listen to this nonsense," she said, standing on the doorstep of her shabby convenience store and handing out candy to neighborhood children.

"Palestine is Arab" and "Gaza is liberated" chanted the children, some as young as 5. Waste
flowed along the street from an open sewer at a cluster of rundown brick homes.

Passers-by gave thumbs-up and victory signs to the children, who were leaving a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The organization oversees services - including health care and education - to some 13 refugee camps in Jordan.

Gaza Camp, located west of Jerash, Jordan's famed Roman-ruin city, and about 30 miles north of the capital, Amman, is home to 27,000 Palestinians.

UNRWA estimates that 122,000 Gazans live in Jordan, the largest Arab host to the estimated total of 1.8 million Palestinian refugees. Most of the Gaza natives live in Gaza Camp.

Inside Lebanon's Ein el-Hilweh camp, that country's largest with a population of 75,000
Palestinians, the pullout from Gaza generated joy and hope. Lebanon is third after Jordan and Syria in its number of Palestinians refugees.

Palestinian guerrillas from various factions joined civilians and old women, their heads
covered with white scarves, in an Arabic dance accompanied by bagpipes in the teeming camp.

"When the intefadeh (uprising) began, we felt that something would be achieved. Today, we are sure that this intefadeh has begun achieving the first of its goals with Gaza's independence," said Lt. Col. Maher Shabaitah, who heads the camp's Fatah guerrilla movement office.

Ramzi Qabalawi, 55, a refugee in Lebanon since the 1948 founding of Israel, called the Gaza withdrawal "a great victory" for the Palestinians.

"Had it not been for the resistance and stepped-up attacks on Israel, they (Israelis) would have never thought of withdrawal," he said.

Jubilation at Jordan's Gaza Camp, however, was dimmed by suspicions that the Gaza pullout was merely a tactic to strengthen Israel's grip on the West Bank.

"Any inch of Palestinian land given back to us is good," said Ibrahim Jallad, 35, a sanitation
worker. "But it looks like Gaza will be first and last."

But for Abu-Hashish, the tearful 65-year-old, there was little to think about but returning to
Gaza: "I have a plot of land and a two-story house here, which I'm offering for free to my
Jordanian brothers.

"I want to go home, even if I have to walk all the way."

JAMAL HALABY, Associated Press Writer

Source: JAMAL HALABY- 17/08/2005


Jordan's King Abdullah II vowed Tuesday to oppose settling more
Palestinian refugees in his country amid Arab fears that Israel's
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip may not extend to the West Bank.

Abdullah is concerned that if Israel fails to leave the West Bank,
which Palestinians want as part of a future state, Jordan may be
pressed to settle tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees living in
camps scattered across the region, including Syria and Lebanon.

"I know and do appreciate the fears of some of you that plans may
exist to redraw the map of the region and to settle some historic
issues at the expense of Jordan," Abdullah told an impromptu meeting
with members of parliament, Cabinet and former prime ministers before
he left for Russia.

"We are talking about the issue of resettlement and an alternative
(Jordanian) homeland," he said.

Jordan already hosts 1.8 million Palestinian refugees and their
descendants displaced in two wars with Israel since 1948.

The government argues that accepting more refugees may disturb this
country's fragile economy and its demographic balance.

Abdullah's remarks appeared aimed at Jordanians, who become increasingly
suspicious about Israel peace intentions.

Speculation is rife in Jordan and other Arab capitals that Israel,
which has begun withdrawing Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, may
stop at offering any more territory to the Palestinians in the future.

Abdullah urged Jordanians to confront any plan aiming to "deprive
Palestinians of their right to return to their homeland or establish
their independent state on Palestinian soil, and nowhere else."

"If such a plan exists, it is a plot against the Palestinian people
as much as it is a plot against Jordan," he said. "I should not be
alone in confronting such a plot, if it exists."

On Monday, Abdullah told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in a
telephone call that the Gaza withdrawal was a "positive step and must
be a starting point for pulling out of the West Bank.

Source: The Associated Press- 16/08/2005