(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) called upon the government on Saturday to open its doors to Syrian refugees fleeing the ongoing conflict in their country.
“I spoke with Syrian opposition leader Kamal al-Labwani on the topic of Israel taking in refugees from the fighting in Syria, and to push for an urgent international conference to discuss the matter,” Herzog said.
“I call on the Israeli government to carry out a process of absorbing refugees from Syria in addition to humanitarian efforts already being made now,” he said. “Jews cannot be indifferent when hundreds of thousands of refugees are searching for a safe haven.”
According to a 2013 study published in The Guardian, Israel has one of the largest immigrant populations per capita.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday appealed to the United Nations to pressure Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to move to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Abbas asked the PA envoy to the UN to work with the UN secretary-general to take the appropriate and necessary measures to absorb the refugees in the Palestinian territories, the PLO’s Wafa news agency reported.
The report did not mention which refugees Abbas was referring to, but Palestinian sources in Ramallah said the president was specifically referring to the Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon.
According to the report, Abbas wants the refugees to move to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to “stop their suffering, displacement and death as a result of the harsh conditions in the region.”
The PA leadership, it said, considers this not only a humanitarian issue, “but a right for all Palestinians living in exile and in refugee camps.”
Also on Saturday, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani said that some of the Palestinians who fled their homes in Syria have begun returning to their camps.
Majdalani said the refugees, who fled their homes because of the civil war in Syria, have begun returning in large numbers after the PA held discussions with Syrian authorities over their fate.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians, most of them from the Yarmuk camp in Damascus, are reported to have fled their homes over the past few years because of the fighting between the Syrian army and opposition groups.