Israel has turned down a request to transfer to the occupied West Bank graves of Palestinian leaders buried in Syria where their tombs are threatened by jihadists, officials said today.
The Palestinians have sought to transfer the bodies after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists started to smash gravestones in the embattled Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk on the outskirts of Damascus.
"We presented a request to the Israelis to allow us to move the bodies of three Palestinian leaders from a cemetery in the Yarmuk camp close to Damascus to Palestine," Palestinian minister Hussein al-Sheikh told AFP.
They were informed on Monday that the request was rejected, he said, confirming a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Israel's defence ministry body that oversees civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories confirmed they had received a request but turned it down, without providing further details.
Among the bodies the Palestinians wanted to remove was that of Khalil al-Wazir, better known as Abu Jihad, who was assassinated by Israeli commandos in Tunisia in 1988, as well as another senior PLO figure, Saad Sayil.
IS destroyed gravestones in the cemetery on Sunday, according to the head of political affairs at the Syrian branch of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Anwar Abdel Hadi.
"Daesh smashed gravestones in the 'Martyrs' Cemetery' in Yarmuk," charging they were non-believers, he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group whose fighters control most of the camp.
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