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Monday, March 28, 2011

Rumors: Syria targeting Latakia to kick out Palestinians

Over the weekend, Syrian riots have spread to the coastal town of Latakia. From BBC:
Syrian troops have deployed in force in the northern city of Latakia, where at least 12 people have died in a wave of unrest that has shaken the regime.

Officials blamed foreign forces for the violence, but residents said pro-government gangs started the clashes.

Syrian troops are now in control of Latakia, 350km (220 miles) north-west of the capital Damascus, our correspondent says.

The government says 12 people were killed during clashes on Friday and Saturday, but residents say the number could be higher.

The streets of Latakia, home to 450,000 people, were completely deserted on Sunday and all shops remained closed.
AP adds:
A Latakia resident says the streets are mostly deserted on Monday after unidentified men carrying sticks and hunting rifles pulled over cars and asked for IDs on Sunday and through the night. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
I had mentioned that Syria had earlier blamed "Palestinian extremists" for the unrest when it was just starting, and an advisor to President Assad has made the same accusation about Palestinian Arabs who live in the unofficial Latakia "refugee" camp.

Now a new conspiracy theory is making the rounds.

According to Palestine Press Agency, the person behind the Latakia escalation is Assad's cousin Rami Makhlouf. For two years, Makhlouf has been trying to move the entire Latakia Palestinian Arab camp elsewhere - because they are on valuable beach property and he wants to turn that area into a resort.

A crackdown in Latakia that blames Palestinian Arabs could be the excuse he needs to set up his cream project.

Makhlouf is reportedly a billionaire and one of the most powerful men in Syria.

His name seems to be coming up in many demonstrations as a symbol of Syrian corruption.

The Latakia camp is not an official UNRWA camp but was set up in 1955. Its residents are said to mostly have originated in Jaffa.

Palestinian Arab leaders in Syria have been trying very hard to distance themselves from the demonstrators.