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Europeans On Hunger Strike In Baghdad For Palestinians
photo: Scores of tents, sheltering Palestinians, at Haifa refugee camp in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, July 13 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) - Three European protesters in Baghdad have gone on hunger strike to protest conditions in which Palestinians are being held and to demand the families' right to return to the occupied territories.
More than 800 Palestinian families have been evicted from their homes in Iraq since the fall of the Baathist regime with many now living in tents inside a sports club, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Saddam Hussein's regime gave Palestinian families subsidized housing, but since his fall, landlords have been evicting them, leaving many with little choice but the camp run by the Red Crescent in Baghdad's Haifa sports club.
"We are on hunger strike to demand the coalition provide immediate re-housing for Palestinian refugees and their right to return to Palestine," said Christian Garcia, a French protester from the International Civil Campaign for the Protection of the Palestinian People, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
He added "the hunger strike would last one week".
He also demanded the liberation of three Palestinian diplomats arrested by U.S. occupation troops May 28 in a raid which netted a cache of weapons but also left the Palestinian mission trashed.
Garcia, along with two women - one Irish and the other Polish, from the group Voices in the Wilderness - is living in a tent among an estimated 1,300 Palestinians who have settled in the camp, without either electricity or water.
Some of the families have been in the camp for three months.
The Geneva-based UNHCR has helped accommodate the evicted in the Haifa camp, but with temperatures soaring to the mid 40s Celsius (112 degrees Fahrenheit) the measure was only a provisional solution, spokesman Kris Janowski added.
"The Palestinians had lived as refugees in Iraq, some for nearly 50 years, accommodated in government-subsidized flats," Janowski said last month.
Meanwhile, other Palestinians arrived in Iraq more recently, having fled to Iraq from Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War. Up to 90,000 Palestinians were believed to be living in Iraq when the war to topple Saddam's regime was launched in March.
Some of the refugees originally came to Iraq in 1948 from the Haifa region, which became part of Israel when it won its statehood that year.
A doctor from the Palestinian Red Crescent said the group was hoping to convince the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq to give Palestinian families vacant houses in Baghdad as a temporary solution.