Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
February 24, 2011 - 1:00am

Palestinians on Thursday expressed fear that Muammar Gaddafi would turn against thousands of Palestinians living in Libya under the pretext they are helping his opponents.

The concern came in response to charges made by Gaddafi and his son Seif al-Islam to the effect that Arabs living in Libya were involved in the fighting against the government.

Both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government have called on neighboring Arab countries to intervene to prevent Gaddafi from carrying out “massacres” against Palestinians in Libya.

The number of Palestinians living in Libya is not known. But various Palestinian sources have estimated their number at several thousand.

The PA on Thursday welcomed Israel’s decision to allow 300 Palestinians who fled Libya recently to return to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“President Mahmoud Abbas appreciates this step and considers it a move in the right direction,” a senior PA official in Ramallah said.

The PA was “deeply concerned” about the fate of thousands of Palestinians who are still in Libya, the official said.

“We’ve received reports that Gaddafi is planning to take revenge against the Palestinians in his country because he believes they are supporting the revolution against him,” he added.

Anti-Gaddafi protests in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip could also be used by Gaddafi as an excuse to strike at Palestinians in Libya, the official warned.

The Hamas government has appealed to the Egyptian authorities to facilitate the evacuation of Palestinians from Libya.

Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said that Egypt has agreed to allow thousands of Palestinians to enter its territory through a border crossing with Libya. “We thank the Egyptian army for facilitating the evacuation of Palestinians from Libya and allowing them to arrive in Egypt unharmed,” Taha said.

Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA’s Al-Hayat al-Jadida daily, said that Gaddafi had always supported opponents of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas and had concocted conspiracies against them.


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