Syrian regime wants Palestinian refugees back in Yarmouk

The once-busy district is now a ghost town piled with rubble and mangled steel rods. (AFP)
Updated 07 November 2018
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Syrian regime wants Palestinian refugees back in Yarmouk

  • The Syrian regime and allied forces retook the neighborhood in May from Daesh
  • Five months on, only a few residents have managed to return

BEIRUT: The Syrian regime has created a plan for the return of Palestinians to the war-ravaged Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus, the deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.

In an interview with Beirut-based broadcaster Al-Mayadeen, Faisal Al-Meqdad said there was a “plan for the return of all refugees to the camp,” home to some 160,000 Palestinians before Syria’s war broke out in 2011.

He did not specify how or when people would start returning.

The Syrian regime and allied forces retook the neighborhood in May from Daesh, pushing the militants out of their only bastion in the capital.

“Efforts are being made to clear (the camp) of mines left by... Daesh,” said Meqdad.

Founded in 1957 with tents for Palestinians who fled or were ousted from their homes with the establishment of Israel, Yarmouk grew into a bustling neighborhood.

In 2012, around 140,000 residents fled as clashes raged.

Those who stayed faced severe shortages of food and medicine under a withering years-long regime siege.

Daesh terrorists entered the area in 2015, bringing further suffering to remaining residents until being forced out in May.

Five months on, only a few residents have managed to return.

Meqdad said Damascus wanted to dispel any “rumors” that Palestinians had been displaced.

The once-busy district is now a ghost town piled with rubble and mangled steel rods.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has said its 23 premises in the camp including 16 schools are damaged, but that it would not fix any unless the government officially allowed residents to return.

UN and Palestinian officials have criticized Damascus for not giving the go-ahead for reconstruction plans or officially allowing residents to return.

On Monday, Meqdad said the Syrian regime would not object to a “role for the Palestinian Authority or UNRWA in rebuilding the camp.”

More than 360,000 people have been killed since Syria’s multi-faceted war erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.


Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

Egyptian Christians stand outside St. Markos Church in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt, in this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 23 July 2019
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Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

  • Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students

CAIRO: The Egyptian Orthodox Church has issued a statement condemning the theft of the body of the Patriarch Gerges, son of priest Ibrahim Al-Basit, from his family’s burial place in the Minya governorate.
Last Saturday, the cemetery was opened and Al-Basit’s body was stolen. The crime of stealing the bodies of the dead has recently spread across Egypt, especially while the sanctity of the body remains preserved. It is also common for the remains to be collected two years after the burial.
Last October, a gang was arrested after stealing bodies from their graves. An investigation has revealed that the main defendant sold the bodies to medical students for practical learning.
Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students.
The investigation found that the defendant had put a price on various limbs. The leg and the arm were priced at 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($180), the skull cost 5,000 pounds and the whole body was worth 20,000 pounds.
Ashraf Farahat, a legal expert and lawyer, said that Egyptian law demands up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 100-500 pounds for criminals who violate the sanctity of graves.
Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a legal expert and lawyer, said he knew of many cases where cemetery guards and assistants help people access graves for superstitious reasons in exchange for large sums of money.
The majority of these cases are happening with the help of the guards of the tombs. They exhume graves at night to extract the bodies and separate the organs to sell bones and skulls. They often sell them to drug dealers by grinding and mixing some materials for sale at high prices.