Syria Army Masses at Palestinian Camp as Conflict Flares

Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are massing near a Palestinian camp a day after air attacks on the site killed eight civilians.

Troops are concentrating in areas close to Yarmouk, according to Al Arabiya television, a camp in the southern part of Damascus. Hamas, a Palestinian movement that runs the Gaza Strip and that’s designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., Israel and the European Union, condemned yesterday’s attacks by Assad’s forces and called those responsible “war criminals,” according to an e-mailed statement earlier today.

Hamas was formerly allied to the Assad government and many of its leaders were Damascus-based. The last member of the organization’s politburo was reported by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper to have left Syria in February as the Syrian civil conflict intensified.

There are 525,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and a “significant number” have been killed, wounded or forced to flee during the 21-month conflict, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said on its website. Almost 44,000 people have died since the anti-Assad uprising began, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

While Hamas supports the Syrian revolution, it won’t participate directly because it’s focused on the “liberation of Palestine,” it said.

The Yarmouk attacks “raise serious questions about the stability and protection of the Palestine refugees in Syria,” UNRWA said in its statement.

Damascus Suburbs

Assad’s troops have lost a series of battles for barracks, airfields, power plants, oilfields and roads across the country against rebels in the second half of this year. Fighters struggling to topple the government in Damascus have control of mainly Sunni Muslim areas stretching from the northeastern outskirts of the capital to the southwest of the city, though it is unclear if they are capable of holding the territory.

Syria’s civil war is destined for stalemate, with neither the rebels nor the military able to prevail in the conflict, Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa told Al-Akhbar newspaper.

“The opposition forces combined cannot decide the battle militarily,” al-Sharaa told the Al-Akhbar newspaper, which posted the comments to its English-language website yesterday. “Meanwhile, what the security forces and the army units are doing will not reach a conclusive end.”

Figures including North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius have said during the past week that Assad’s days may be numbered.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dana El Baltaji in Dubai at delbaltaji@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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