Syrian regime forces, accompanied by Russian troops, have begun digging up graves in the old Martyrs’ Cemetery of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, looking for the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in the 1980s, the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) reported on Monday.
The Israeli soldiers were killed in the Battle of Sultan Yaqoub which took place between Israeli and Syrian forces in Lebanon in 1982. Thirty Israeli soldiers were killed in the battle and three remain missing.
The Syrian regime handed over the remains of one of the missing soldiers, Zachary Bauman, to Israel in April 2019.
Residents of the Yarmouk Camp said that regime militia had placed barriers outside the cemetery and prevented people from entering on the first day of Eid.
Among those prohibited from entering were delegates from the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other Palestinian groups. The Palestinian groups traditionally visit the cemetery on the first day of Eid to place flowers on the graves of Palestinians killed in battle.
A similar incident occurred last March, when Russian troops cordoned off an area of the Yarmouk refugee camp to look for Zachary Baumel’s body before it was returned to Israel.
The Yarmouk Camp has been devastated by intense fighting during the Syrian conflict, which broke out in 2011 following the suppression of protests by the Assad regime.
After being captured by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their Palestinian allies in 2012, it was subjected to a “starve-or-surrender” siege by Syrian regime forces.
The Islamic State group took over the camp from the FSA in 2015 before being driven out by the regime in April 2018 following a military campaign which destroyed 60 percent of the camp’s buildings. The Old Martyrs’ Cemetery was damaged by barrel bomb and missile strikes during this campaign.
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