GAZA CITY: More than 500 Palestinians have been killed or reported missing in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, a top Palestinian official said Thursday. During the past three years, 536 Palestinians have found martyrdom or have gone missing in Iraq, Zakaria al-Agha, who is in charge of the refugee dossier at the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told AFP. According to Agha, the Palestinian community in Iraq currently numbers 22,100 people and has been victim of 809 criminal aggressions since a US-led invasion toppled Saddam in April 2003. Another 62 Palestinian have been since arrested and 22 kidnapped, he said. Agha called on the international community to protect the Palestinian refugees in Iraq. Certain Iraqi militias deliberately target the Palestinian refugees and their neighborhoods, especially in Baghdad, where the Al-Baladiyat neighborhood in particular has been the scene of repeated barbaric aggressions, he said. Before the US-led invasion, about 34,000 Palestinians lived in Iraq, where they benefited from numerous privileges under Saddam’s government. Saddam was popular in the Palestinian territories, where he provided financial aid to families of suicide bombers and those who orchestrated resistance attacks. The former president, who was hanged in Baghdad on Dec. 30, became a hero to many Palestinians for firing Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait.