To Refugee Camp Siege
By Moussa Bachir
writing from Beirut
22 May 2007
The clashes between the Lebanese
army and the organization of Fatah al Islam, as well as the explosion
in Ashrafieh (Beirut), took precedence over all other news and blog
posts in almost all of the blogs during the past two days. Following
are quotes from a number of these posts including a post quoting a civilian
trapped in the camp of Nahr el Barid in North Lebanon, in the crossfire,
between the army and the organization.
In the Nahr el Barid
In a very rare blog post
on the conditions in the camp where some members of Fath al Islam are
reported to be hiding,
A Shouly quotes Ahmad, his friend, who is one of many trapped
in the crossfire:
Ahmad, a friend of mine, living in the camp, told me that they don't
have water now, nor bread, nor hospitals. They are starting to feel
hungry, they can't take the injuries outside the camp nor the dead,
Explosion in Ashrafieh-Beirut
who lives in Ashrafieh, was awake and out when the explosion in a parking
near the ABC shopping mall occurred at about midnight on Sunday. She
shared with her readers what was her first experience with the aftermath
of a violent explosion as well as her anxiety over the safety of her
sister who was at home, a couple of blocks from the explosion.
I was walking on glasses, glasses of bed rooms, living rooms, of
homes. It was so crowded, with families wearing pajamas, pink, blue,
yellow, scared, panicked, I saw a guy with a wet face, and a woman grabbed
my friend's arm asking him about her house, we left her.
I don't know why, but
I shed a tear.
I looked at my Southern
friend's face, he was in the South when Israel bombed it, he heard the
noises, saw the red, all this is very familiar to him, very not to me.
I saw the fire, I saw
the giant thing glowing in the panicked people's eyes, I do not know
how does it feel to be Lebanese, to have a Lebanese face, I haven't
lived a "civil" war, nor a terrorist war, June war. I haven't
heard a single noise outside the screen, we shared history??
Word on the Street
mentions some of what the people on the streets are saying
concerning the origins of the militants in the north of Lebanon:
The Government is blaming Syria. I am really not a fan of Syria but
word on the streets is that militants in the north (said to be linked
to Al Qaeda) have been funded and armed to create sunni arms in response
to the shia's hizballah. The word on the street is that Lebanese sunnis
will not hold arms and fight so yes, such militants have been created
and grown as a possible retaliation. Of course, just like the US couldn't
control Al Qaeda which in reality it helped create, these militants
will be very hard if not impossible to control as well. Proof of the
matter ... these days events.
And in a witty article, Jamal
mentions some facts about the situation which he describes
as circulating rumours that we should beware:
The panic and fear engulfing the [fools] makes them susceptible
to any rumors that might answer their question "Whodunit?"
Who's the big bad wolf? Of course the big bad wolf is banking on this
chaos and on these rumors to feed the already pre-conceived convictions
and ignite the pent up hatred.
Anyways this [fool] just
wants to point out that some widely circulated rumors, are just that
rumors, and hopes that his [foolish] buddies do not adopt these propaganda
lines as facts and speed up the nose dive into the shit pond that awaits
us. [...] 3.) The nutbags are not exclusively Palestinian, most of them
are actually with some nutbags from various other Middle Eastern countries.
[...] 6.) The [fools] don't love life. A large number of people showed
more outrage for the glass shattered in ABC than for the tens of soldiers
and civilians dead during the day.
The two major Lebanese groups,
the pro-government and the opposition threw allegations at each other
as a result of the situation. Abu
Ali summarized this blame game and added his opinion in
a post in which he said:
The two camps in Lebanon are now throwing allegations at each other,
each sticking to the usual litany: The pro-Government group accuses
Fateh al Islam of being Syrian agents, in charge of derailing the international
tribunal by holding Lebanon hostage. The opposition describes Fateh
al Islam as a creature of the Hariri group, brought in to oppose the
Shi'a expansion on sectarian basis. They point to the fact that Mr.
Fatfat, when he was Minister of Interior, gave official recognition
to Hizb al Tahrir, a Sunni party fighting for the reinstatement of the
Caliphate. Hizb al Tahrir became famous for its strong expression of
dislike towards Danish cartoonists by burning churches in Ashrafieh.
I wonder who those Fateh
al Islam are anyway. There has been so little transparency in reporting
the events of the past 2 days that one is unsure what is and what is
not true. Are they Palestinians? We hear that only part of them are,
and that the group is mostly made up of Lebanese Sunnis from the squalid
areas of the North, like Bab el Tebbaneh. Places like Bab el Tebbaneh
are truly the poorest areas of Lebanon, only the Palestinian camps are
Jade are two bloggers posting updates on security situation.
raised the issue of the civilian casualties and the ethical
issues that it poses:
Indeed, terrorists hiding among civilians pose a moral dilemma,
and the humanitarian crisis should not be ignored. But does that mean
that the Army should somehow start "talking" with terrorists
whose only aim is to destabilize Lebanon?
A lot is at stake in
the Army's zero-tolerance policy. A "softer" and "more
understanding" Army will send the wrong signals to would-be-terrorists
that it is ok in the future to attack the military. Moreover, the Army
has to send a clear message to the residents of the camps: Not handing
the terrorists over will cost you much more than keeping them around.
On Fatah al Islam
and On How Will the Clashes End
Kais explains why the army can never lose this battle:
This battle cannot be
won by Fatah al-Islam. They are outnumbered by the increasingly popular
army, even though they seem to have a lot of weapons. The group, which
the head of the Internal Security Forces called "imitation al-Qaeda",
consists of former Iraq fighters and international terrorists. That
they all got into Lebanon with the help of Syrian intelligence should
be a confirmation to all that the Assad regime is a major sponsor of
world terror. According to An-Nahar, one of the killed terrorists was
involved in the Ain Alaq bombings in February, and another was wanted
over the 2006 plot to blow up trains in Germany.
wrote on what he sees are the role and objectives of the
organization of Fatah al Islam:
Groups like those Fath Al-Islam and other similar fundamentalist
groups are "true believers".
In practice, they are
opportunists who follow whatever the "cause du jour" happens
to be. They have become more vocal and were overdue for some action;
with the approach of the Hariri tribunal, their Syrian masters may have
seized their chance to "activate" them. That much was clear
to the Mufti, who called for support to the Lebanese armed forces as
the fighting got bloodier.
In theory, it was meant
to be different, at least from the perspective of the cannon fodder
they recruit. The ideology of Fath Al-Islam and similar groups is geared
towards a return to the heydays of the Caliphate. While this particular
outfit is focused on a return to Palestine, others want a return to
And finally, As'ad
Abu Khalil believes that the whole situation will end up
in a stalemate with things returning to their "abnormal" conditions
as they always do in Lebanon:
This is typical. We have seen this before. The Lebanese Army is
given an opportunity by the political class (and by the sectarian sects-all
of them) to show muscle, but only against the refugee camps of Lebanon.
I remember this from my childhood. Back in 1973, Israeli terrorists
(headed by Ehud Barak) sneaked into Lebanon and killed Palestinian leaders:
one of them was a poet sleeping in his bed (Kamal Nasir). The Lebanese
Army did not lift a finger-it never does against Israel.[...]
But make no mistake:
nothing will change. It will end like every other incident of this kind
ends: in a stalemate, and in things returning back to abnormal. This
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