Abbas Rejects Syrian Refugee Deal

YERUSHALAYIM -

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he has rejected an Israeli offer to let Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria resettle in Yehudah and Shomron, saying it would compromise their claims to return to live in Israel.

“The apparent unwillingness to lift a finger … for fellow Palestinians in need is at odds with the Palestinians’ public stance,” said Fox News, noting that Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour, in a Dec. 19, 2012, letter to the U.N. Security Council, urged the world to help the Syrian refugees.

“The growing impact of this crisis on [the refugees’] security and on the stability of the refugee camps has become of grave concern and compels me, on behalf of the Palestinian leadership, to call for the urgent attention of the international community to this matter,” Mansour wrote.

Abbas said he asked U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon last month to seek Israeli permission to bring Palestinians caught in Syria’s civil war to the Palestinian Authority. The request came after fighting between Syrian troops and rebel fighters in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. About half of the camp’s 150,000 residents have fled, according to a U.N. aid agency.

Abbas told a group of Egyptian journalists in Cairo late Wednesday that Ban contacted Israel on his behalf.

Abbas said Ban was told Israel “agreed to the return of those refugees to Yehudah and Shomron and Gaza, but on condition that each refugee … sign a statement that he doesn’t have the right of return [to Israel],” The Associated Press reported on Thursday.

“So we rejected that and said it’s better they die in Syria than give up their right of return,” Abbas told the group.

Officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office declined comment Thursday, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, Israel has offered to send humanitarian aid to Syria, but has thus far been rebuffed.

“A few months ago, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered to send humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, asking if it would be accepted through the Red Cross,” Ilana Stein, deputy spokesperson at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Fox. “The Red Cross contacted Syrian opposition representatives, but they said they didn’t want it.”

Palestinians in Syria are descendants of Palestinians who fled during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948.