BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The graves of two Fatah cofounders in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria were bulldozed by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters, relatives said on Monday.
The family of Khalil al-Wazir said in a statement that the tombs of al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, and Saad Sayil, known as Abu al-Walid were leveled on Sunday.
Both Fatah cofounders were assassinated in the 1980s and buried in the Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus.
"Bulldozing martyrs' tombs today brings about worries that terrorist groups may commit more repulsive acts," al-Wazir’s family said.
Al-Wazir’s relatives called for his body, along with those of other “martyrs” buried abroad, to be brought back to the occupied 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."
The Fatah movement in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus also issued a statement denouncing the attack on the cemetery, and called on the Palestinian leadership to repatriate the bodies of “martyrs.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Education for the Palestinian Authority (PA) Sabri Saidam denied the reports, saying that according to eyewitnesses testimonies that he had heard, ISIS only destroyed the gravestones, and did not raze the entire tombs.
Saidam added that that his father is buried in Yarmouk’s cemetery.
Yarmouk used to be home to nearly 200,000 people, the majority Palestinian refugees, but after two years of a devastating Syrian regime siege, followed by ISIS' incursion into the camp, the vast majority were forced to flee. The Jafra Foundation, a Yarmouk-based humanitarian organization, estimates some 5,000 to 8,000 residents remain.
The Palestine Liberation Organization said in April that residents of Yarmouk had been executed, beheaded, and raped
amid clashes between ISIS and the al-Nusra Front.
The Syrian conflict began in the form of peaceful protests in March 2011 and quickly morphed into a civil war that has so far left more than 400,000 people dead and millions displaced according to UN estimates.
Over half a million Palestinians lived across nine refugee camps in Syria prior to the war, the descendants of some of the 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes during the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Syria's civil war has seen many of these families displaced a second time, with up to 280,000 displaced inside Syria, a further 110,000 displaced to neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and increasingly, to Europe.