The graves of two of the founders of the Fatah movement were reportedly destroyed by the radical Islamic State movement in Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp on Sunday.
The tombs of PLO terror chief Khalil al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, and Saad Sayil, known as Abu al-Walid, were bulldozed by IS, the Palestinians news agency Ma’an reported, quoting relatives of the two.
“Bulldozing martyrs’ tombs today brings about worries that terrorist groups may commit more repulsive acts,” al-Wazir’s family was quoted as saying.
Al-Wazir’s family called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to transfer the bodies to Palestinian territory. “We are confident that Palestinian leadership, namely President Mahmoud Abbas, who was a companion of the martyrs Sayil and al-Wazir, will exert serious efforts to bring back their bodies to be buried in their homeland and birthplace,” they said, according to the report.
— Daniel | دانيال (@MrDaniyalAAmir) October 17, 2016
Anwar Abdul-Hadi, director of the PLO’s political department in Syria, told official PA news agency WAFA on Monday that the destruction was “an offense to the history of the Palestinian revolution, its nationalist mission as well as a cowardly act that should be condemned.”
However, PA Education Minister Sabri Saidam denied the reports, claiming that according to eyewitnesses only the tombstones were destroyed, but not the graves themselves.
— IPNOTGlobal (@IPNOTGlobal) October 17, 2016
Abu Jihad (“father of the struggle”) was co-founder of the PLO and mastermind of the infamous Coastal Road massacre, a 1978 attack on an Israeli bus near Tel Aviv that killed 38 Israelis and wounded another 70. He was also responsible for numerous other terror attacks on Israeli targets in the 1970s and ’80s.
As military commander of Fatah, he unified fragmented factions of the PLO from his base in Tunis, and was accused by Israel of directing an escalation of violence against Israel in the territories after the First Intifada uprising erupted in the territories 1987.
He was assassinated by Israeli forces at his home in Tunis in April 1988.
According to PLO leaders, Abu Walid, Arafat’s chief of staff, was killed by Syrians in the Beqaa Valley in 1982.
Before the Syrian civil war, some 160,000 people, mostly Palestinians and Syrians, lived in the district of Yarmouk in southern Damascus.
But the once thriving suburb has been devastated by conflict since late 2012 and the UN’s body dealing with Palestinian refugees cannot access the camp to distribute aid to some 6,000 remaining residents.
AFP contributed to this report.