coffins syria 224 88.
(photo credit: AP)
Mourners in Syria buried dozens of fighters killed fighting Israel over the years after their remains were returned Wednesday as part of a deal between Hizbullah and Israel.
Relatives waiting at Syria's border with Lebanon showered the coffins with rice and rose petals. Black-clad Muslim women among the thousands of Syrians and Palestinians in the crowd uttered cries of joy as they watched the convoy snake toward the Syrian capital, Damascus, for a burial ceremony.
Israel returned the remains of nearly 200 Arab fighters to Lebanon last week in a prisoner exchange with Hizbullah. Israel also released five Lebanese prisoners, including convicted murderer Samir Kuntar.
In return, Hizbullah returned the remains of two Israeli soldiers the group captured in a cross-border raid that triggered the 2006 Lebanon war, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
On Wednesday, 114 of the slain fighters were returned to Syria. Most of the dead were Palestinians and Syrians. There were also eight Tunisians, three Libyans, an Iraqi and a Nigerian. They were transported from Lebanon to Syria after Hizbullah identified the remains.
By also seeking the return of non-Lebanese fighters in the deal, Hezbollah sought to broaden its support among all Arabs, not just Lebanese Shiite Muslims.
A young Libyan man who came to collect the remains of his father, killed 19 years ago while carrying out an attack in Israel, said he was thankful for Hizbullah's effort in the negotiations.
"I feel proud. We have waited a long time for this moment," said the 20-year-old, Ibrahim Ali Nonsah.
The coffins, covered with wreaths and Palestinian and Syrian flags, were trucked across the border to a ceremony attended by representatives of the Syrian government and radical Palestinian factions based in Damascus.
Some of the slain fighters were buried later at a cemetery in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus. Tens of thousands of mourners waved Palestinian flags and shouted for the killings to be avenged.
Others will be buried elsewhere in Syria. The remains of the other Arab fighters will be handed over to their governments.