Palestinians Reach Syria After 11-Day Odyssey
LATAKIA, Syria (AP) _ More than 250 Palestinians expelled by Libya sang and cheered today as they arrived in the Syrian port of Latakia, ending an 11-day odyssey through the Mediterranean.
The jubilant Palestinian men, women and children lined the decks of the Fayza Express as it docked after a 16-hour trip from Cyprus. Many waved portraits of Syrian President Hafez Assad, whose government agreed to give them sanctuary.
Another Syrian vessel, the naval training ship Al-Assad, left Cyprus for Latakia today with another 340 deportees.
The Palestinians were among more than 650 _ half of them children under the age of 10 _ who were deported from Libya on Oct. 13 aboard the ferry Countess M.
The ferry first headed for Syria, but authorities refused to let it dock. It then sailed to Larnaca, Cyprus, anchoring on Tuesday and waiting until Syria relented under international pressure and agreed to take in all passengers carrying Syrian documents.
Though some of the Palestinians were elated to be heading for Syria, others resent the Damascus government, which has long been at odds with the PLO. They fear they will face more trouble in Syria.
Larnaca port officials said 43 Palestinians remained aboard the Countess M. Thirteen have Jordanian papers and will be flown to Amman. The others carry papers from various Arab countries, and the Cypriot government was negotiating with those countries to take them in.
The Palestinians are among more than 31,000 expelled from Libya to demonstrate Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s opposition to Israeli-PLO peace accords.
Another 1,000 Palestinian deportees are stuck in a squalid camp on the Libyan-Egyptian border, where aid workers say many children have fallen ill and at least one has died.
``The situation is really appalling, and it’s getting worse, really critical,″ said Panos Moumtzis, a U.N. refugee official.
Most Arab countries have refused to receive the Palestinians, saying they should go to the Palestinian-ruled West Bank and Gaza Strip.