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Clashes ease at Damascus Palestinian refugee camp

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 20, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.

— Days of intense fighting in a Palestinian refugee camp subsided Thursday and some of the more than 100,000 residents who fled the violence in the capital, Damascus, began to trickle back, activists and officials said.

In Moscow, Syria’s most important international ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he is not preoccupied much with the fate of President Bashar Assad’s regime and knows changes in the country are needed.

It was another blow to the regime from its most important international ally, coming just a week after Russia’s top envoy for Syria was quoted as saying Assad’s forces were losing control of the country. Although the Foreign Ministry backpedaled on that statement, analysts have suggested for months that the Kremlin is resigned to losing its longtime ally.

“We are not preoccupied that much with the fate of the Assad regime; we realize what’s going on there and that the family has been in power for 40 years,” Putin said. “Undoubtedly, there is a call for changes.”

In Damascus, where rebels are posing an increasing challenge in Assad’s seat of power, fighting has been raging for days in the Yarmouk refugee camp. It began when pro- and anti-regime elements within the camp began clashing a week ago.

More than two-thirds of the roughly 150,000 Palestinian residents have fled the camp since last week when the fighting flared up, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. They sought shelter in the outskirts of the camp, in other parts of Damascus or other cities, or headed to the Syrian-Lebanon border, it said.

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