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Palestinians in Iraq Report Death Threats

The U.N. refugee agency says it is concerned about the situation of Palestinians in Baghdad. It says over 100 Palestinian families reportedly had received written death threats and that many are in a state of shock and panic.

The U.N. refugee agency says the Palestinians are feeling increasingly trapped. It says many have stopped going to work and have taken their children out of school for security reasons.

UNHCR Spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis says all Iraqis are affected by the general insecurity in the country, but the estimated 34,000 Palestinians in Iraq feel especially vulnerable and targeted, as they were seen to have been treated favorably by Saddam Hussein's regime.

"What we are seeing now is a backlash against them,” she explained. “I cannot tell you exactly who is threatening them, but they are receiving death threats. They are being kidnapped like other people. But, they feel more targeted than what is happening in the Iraqi community in general because of their situation under the previous regime."

Pagonis says the UNHCR remains concerned about the fate of a group of 88 Palestinians, including children and elderly, who were stuck in “No Man's Land” at the Iraqi-Jordanian border after leaving Baghdad last weekend because of the insecurity. She says the group since has been moved back to the Iraqi side of the border.

She says Jordan has closed the border to refugees, so there is little chance the Palestinians will be able to cross over.

She tells VOA that the international non-governmental organization that escorted the Palestinians to the border is the Christian Peacemakers Trust. Four members of the group were taken hostage four months ago. Three surviving hostages were rescued Thursday.

Pagonis says the border area is desolate and very inhospitable. "We have groups that have been stuck there previously for up to about two years,” she said. “It is extremely difficult for aid organizations, not only UNHCR, to try and get assistance to these people. So they end up in a situation where they are at the border, they do not have food, they do not have water. They have got minimal shelter - and how are we, the humanitarian community, going to ensure that these people can survive there?” she continued. “It seems very strange that you take people to a border where you know they are not going to get across."

Pagonis says a team of aid workers managed to reach the border area Thursday night and deliver a 5-7 day supply of food and other basic items to the Palestinians. She says the group is adamant they do not want to return to any part of Iraq.