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Palestine seeks pressure on Israel over refugees

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) at the Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus, Syria, January 31, 2014. ©Reuters

Palestine authorities are calling on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees in war-torn countries in the region to enter their homeland.

The Palestinian Authority official news agency Wafa reported on Saturday that President Mahmoud Abbas has tasked the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations (UN) Riyadh Mansour to work with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on “appropriate and necessary action” to allow Palestinian refugees to return to Palestine.

“This is not only a humanitarian issue but a right for every Palestinian living in exile in refugee camps,” a statement issued by Abbas' office said.

Reports say that the Palestinian Authority is also in contact with other international bodies, including the European Union, on pressuring Israel to avoid prohibiting Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Abbas' office “has been making contacts with the UN, EU and other relevant actors, urging them to pressurize [Israel] to allow Palestinian refugees back into” the Palestinian territories, the report by Wafa added.

Israel has been tightly controlling Palestinian borders since it occupied Palestinian territories in 1967, denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to those territories.

Palestinian refugees in the region are living in camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the occupied territories.

According to the information on the website of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), there are over 2 million registered Palestinian refugees in ten camps in Jordan, nearly 450,000 registered Palestinian refugees in 12 camps in Lebanon as of July 1, 2014, and over 526,740 registered Palestinian refugees in nine camps in Syria as of January 1, 2011.

The turmoil in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people since 2011. As a result, hundreds of Palestinians have been also killed in Syria's crisis. Yarmouk, the biggest Palestinian refugee camp located in the capital, Damascus, has been left all but deserted, following attacks on it by terrorists.

The file photo shows Palestinian women at an UNRWA distribution center in the Jaramana refugee camp, Rif Dimashq, Syria.

According to UNRWA, more than half of Palestinian refugees in Syria have been forced to leave their homes due to violence there.

Earlier this year, UNRWA announced that life for Palestinian refugees in Syria has become increasingly "unsustainable."

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