Smoke rises near Damascus
Smoke rises near DamascusReuters

Defectors of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Syria called on Sunday for the arrest of the group’s head Ahmed Jibril, Al Arabiya reported.

Jibril had been driven out by opposition forces from the Yarmouk refugee camp, the report said. A veteran leader of the Damascus-based faction, Jibril backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has been fighting alongside the regime’s forces.

He left the Yarmouk district of the Syrian capital after 12 days of clashes, both Syrian opposition forces and sources in the Palestinian Authority said on Saturday.

According to Al Arabiya, the sources claimed Jibril departed Yarmouk with his son and they were bound for the Mediterranean city of Tartous, a stronghold of Assad's minority Alawite community.

The move followed heavy fighting during which Syrian fighters, together with a brigade of PA fighters known as Liwa al-Asifah or the Storm Brigade gained ground in Yarmouk, which is home to thousands of people who are recognized as "Palestinian refugees."

On Sunday, a mosque in Yarmouk, that was sheltering some 600 refugees from neighboring districts, was attacked from the air and hit by at least one rocket. Reports indicated that at least 25 people were killed in the strike.

Syrian state television quoted a source in the PFLP as denying reports the rebels had taken over camp. The rebel and PA sources said there had been a number of "qualitative defections" from the PFLP ranks during the fighting, reported Al Arabiya.

Jibril's PFLP has maintained strong ties to Assad throughout the 21-month uprising, unlike Hamas whose Damascus-based officials, including Khaled Mashaal, quietly pulled out of Syria as the mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against Assad gained momentum.