RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A senior Palestinian official said Tuesday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is dispatching representatives to Syria to try to secure the safety of Palestinians caught in fighting.

Ahmed Majdalani said the representatives will meet Syrian officials to try to protect Palestinian areas from fighting that has engulfed parts of the capital Damascus. Generations of Palestinian refugees have lived in the crowded Damascus area of Yarmouk since their forefathers fled, or were forced to flee, their homes during the 1948 Mideast war surrounding Israel’s founding.

Majdalani said they also will try to convince Palestinian factions to stay out of the fighting. The some 500,000 Palestinians in Syria are divided between supporters of rebels and government forces.

Like their Syrian brethren, thousands of Palestinians have been forced to leave their homes because of fighting.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.