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PA and Syria trying to return Palestinian refugees to camps in Syria to maintain their refugee status

“Fatah Movement Central Committee member [and Fatah Commissioner of Branches Abroad] Samir Al-Rifai emphasized that the hopes of the Palestinian refugees from the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus to return to their dwelling places have been renewed, following the decision of [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas and the leadership to bear the costs of clearing the rubble from the refugee camp’s streets and its alleys.

He revealed that there is Palestinian-Syrian agreement regarding the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria being stations on the road back to the homeland of Palestine, and regarding the need to rehabilitate the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp and return the Palestinian refugees to it.

Al-Rifai said in an interview yesterday [Oct. 14, 2018] with Radio Mawtini: ‘The Syrian brothers supported the Palestinian leadership’s decision to bear the expenses of clearing the rubble, and promised to rehabilitate the refugee camp’s infrastructure and the central services such as water, electricity, schools, and sewage.’ …

Al-Rifai emphasized that the return of the Palestinian refugees to the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp was made possible following the leadership’s decision and the beginning of its implementation on the ground. He said: ‘The decision returned hope to its [the camp’s] Palestinian residents, and the return to it has become an established fact. What this means is that the refugees will stop thinking about migration [out of Syria].’ …

Al-Rifai said: ‘The government of Syria has informed the Palestinian delegation led by [PLO Executive Committee member, head of the PLO Department of Arab and Parliamentary Affairs, and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam] Al-Ahmad about its decision to facilitate the return of the Palestinian refugees and treat them like Syrian citizens… and about its decision to allow everyone – Palestinians and Syrians alike – to return. The Syrian authorities have asked those who wish to return to contact the nearest Syrian embassy or consulate in order to start the process to return to the country.’ He explained that approximately 200,000 Palestinians have migrated from the refugee camps in Syria to Europe and the neighboring states

Regarding the nature of the historical and future ties between the Fatah Movement and Syria, Al-Rifai said: ‘From our perspective Syria is a firm support and stronghold in the area of Palestine, as Syria has not been brought down yet, and this really relates to us – we the members of the Palestinian people, the leadership, and the PLO.’ He emphasized the cooperation between the Palestinian leadership and the government of Syria regarding the refugee camps.

He also added: ‘We in Fatah, and also in the PLO, view Syria and all of the Arab states as Palestine’s strategic depth, and what has happened in Syria has saddened us.’”

Azzam Al-Ahmad also holds the following positions: Fatah Commissioner of National Relations (i.e., between Hamas and Fatah) and Fatah Commissioner for Relations with Lebanon.