Palestinians press for action on rebuilding Nahr al-Bared

May 20th, 2008 | Posted in Lebanon, Palestine, Politics, Solidarity

    Daily Star. Tuesday, May 20th, 2008


    Photo: Mary Ellen Davis. Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in ruins.

BEIRUT: Palestinian refugees across Lebanon staged rallies on Tuesday to mark the first anniversary of the conflict at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp during which they stressed the need to reconstruct the camp and realize their right to return to their homeland.

On May 20, 2007, fighting between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam militants broke out at the Nahr al-Bared camp in North Lebanon.

More than 450 people – about 300 militants and 168 soldiers – were killed in the bloody clashes before the army regained control of the camp on September 2. The fighting also ruined infrastructure and forced the camp’s 40,000 residents to flee.

In Beirut, protesters gathered in front of the office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) where they called for the return of residents of the Nahr al-Bared camp to their homes after their reconstruction. Representatives of popular Palestinian committees submitted a memo to UNRWA in this regard.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) organized a demonstration at the Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp, where DFLP member Ali Mahmoud called on the Lebanese government to assume its responsibility when it comes to rebuilding the Nahr al-Bared camp and ensuring the return of its residents.

Demonstrators highlighted Palestinians’ keenness on Lebanon’s security and stability, while insisting on their rejection of “settlement projects” and on their right to return to their homeland.

Palestinian factions and popular committees in North Lebanon carried out their rally at the Baddawi refugee camp.

Abu Jihad Fayyad, secretary of Palestinian factions in the North and a member of the Fatah Movement, said the homecoming of the Nahr al-Bared residents “is a priority.”

“I urge the international community to assume its full responsibility when it comes to the camp’s reconstruction,” he said, warning against any attempt to “play with the fate of the camp.”

Also in Baddawi, the DFLP organized a protest in the presence of representatives of Palestinian factions, popular committees and social institutions in addition to a number of social and national Palestinian figures.

Participants observed a minute of silence in memory of those who died in the Nahr al-Bared conflict before Abu Louay Arkan, DFLP secretary in the North, delivered a speech highlighting the suffering of Palestinians in Lebanon.

“Isn’t it time to put an end to the Nahr al-Bared tragedy by implementing the immediate reconstruction project, approving the Palestinians’ right to work and resolving the issue of possessing the camp’s land?” he asked.

Moving to the South, Palestinians from Tyre’s refugee camps organized a protest in front of the UNRWA bureau in the port city’s Jall al-Baher district. Demonstrators held banners calling on official Lebanese and international bodies as well as humanitarian organizations to interfere in a bid to allow residents of the Nahr al-Bared camp “to live in dignity.” They also called for reconstructing what had been destroyed during the fighting.

Meanwhile, factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Alliance of Palestinian Forces issued a joint statement calling for reconstructing of Nahr al-Bared and compensating its residents for the losses they had endured.

“The Lebanese government is the one responsible for speeding up the camp’s reconstruction,” the statement said. “We are surprised by the international slowdown in dealing with the Nahr al-Bared issue.”

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