Lebanon tells Syria development law could hinder refugees’ return

The legislation came into effect last month as the army was on the brink of crushing the last insurgent enclaves near Damascus, consolidating President Bashar Assad’s grip over nearly all of western Syria. (AFP)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Lebanon tells Syria development law could hinder refugees’ return

BEIRUT: Lebanon expressed concern to Syria on Saturday over a new law aimed at redeveloping areas devastated by seven years of war, saying the initiative could hinder the return of many Syrian refugees to their homeland.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil wrote in a letter to his Syrian counterpart Walid Al-Moualem that the terms of “Law 10” could make it difficult for refugees to prove property ownership, and in turn discourage some from returning.
The legislation came into effect last month as the army was on the brink of crushing the last insurgent enclaves near Damascus, consolidating President Bashar Assad’s grip over nearly all of western Syria.
It allows people to prove they own property in the areas chosen for redevelopment, and to claim compensation. But aid groups say the chaos of war means few will be able to do so in the time specified. The law has yet to be applied.
Bassil, whose country hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, voiced concern over the limited time frame given for refugees to prove possession of their properties.
“The inability of the refugees to practically present what proves their possession (of their properties) during the given time limit might lead to them losing their properties and their sense of national identity,” Bassil said in the letter, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
“This would deprive them of one of the main incentives for their come return to Syria,” he added, echoing comments earlier this week by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri.
Hariri said the law “tells thousands of Syrian families to stay in Lebanon” by threatening them with property confiscation.
Bassil sent a similar letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, calling for action to protect the rights of Syrian refugees in maintaining their properties.


Israeli gunfire kills 2 Gaza border protesters

Updated 7 sec ago
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Israeli gunfire kills 2 Gaza border protesters

  • At least 270 other Palestinians were wounded, 70 of them by gunfire
  • At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since late March

GAZA: Israel troops on Friday shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border.
At least 270 other Palestinians were wounded, 70 of them by gunfire, the Palestinian health ministry in the territory said.
The ministry named the dead men as Karim Abu Fatayer, 30, shot near the central Gaza town of Bureij and Sadi Moamer, 26, killed near Rafah, in the south.
It said that both men were shot in the head.
The Israeli military said troops had opened fire in border incidents.
At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since late March, mostly during protests.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008 and tensions since late March have led to fears of yet another full-blown conflict.
There have been three intense flare-ups since July, the latest on Thursday, when Israel responded to some 180 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza with widespread air strikes.
An Israeli official said on Wednesday that truce talks mediated by Egyptian and United Nations officials had reached an initial set of “understandings” leading to calm on the border over the past few days.
Senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya told AFP on Friday that a durable truce with Israel was near. “In my opinion, yes, we are nearing an agreement,” he said.
He added that the UN and Egyptian talks taking place in Egypt with various Palestinian factions have “taken a big step forward toward understandings with the occupation... and the possibility of restoring calm.”