Political pundits believe the UN report about the killing of ex-Lebanese premier Rafiq Al-Hariri plays into the hands of those pressing for the disarming of Palestinian refugee camps, with one expert seeing the report as part of a scheme to settle the refugees in Lebanon.

"The report reference to the involvement of Palestinians creates an atmosphere conducive to the disarming of Palestinian refugee camps and consequently eliminating any possible resistance for Israel inside Lebanon," Lebanese political analyst Talal Atrissi told

German judge Detlev Mehlis, leading an international team investigating the massive bomb blast that killed Hariri and 20 others in Beirut in February, said members of the Damascus-based Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine – General Command coordinated with Syrian and Lebanese officials in planning the bombing.

PLFP leader Ahmed Jebril refuted the allegation in a telephone interview with IOL on Friday, October 21.


Qasim Qasir, another Lebanese political analyst, concurred.

He said the reference to the Palestinians in the Mehlis report would "speed up handling the issue of Palestinian arms in Lebanon."

The two pundits agreed that disarming the Palestinian camps would not be an easy task.

"There is no Lebanese consensus on the need to disarming the Palestinian camps," said Atrissi.

"The Lebanese also disagree on the priority of this issue at the current political turmoil."

The Lebanese expert maintained that the country's army "does not have the capabilities needed" to disarm the Palestinians by force.

"The army will pay dearly if forcing the Palestinians to lay down their arms and such a situation would have security and political repercussions," said Atrissi.

"The issue of Palestinian arms in Lebanon needs to be handle through in-depth dialogue away from foreign intervention and propaganda."

Qasir also ruled out a possible military solution to the issue, citing ongoing Lebanese-Palestinian discussions.

"There is almost a consensus that Palestinian arms should not go outside the refugee camps because they are unneeded and that arms inside the camps should be managed but not disarmed."

Earlier this month, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora received two Palestinian delegations separately on regulating Palestinian arms.

The Lebanese government stressed that Palestinian arms would not be tolerated outside the camps.


Hassan Nafa’a, an Egyptian political science professor, had a different reading of the Mehlis report.

"The Palestinian reference provides a golden opportunity for the US to achieve its agenda, particularly the settlement of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon," he told IOL.

He said Washington would first push for the disarming of Palestinians before moving on with the settlement scheme.

"The Mehlis report is part of the US plan to upset the political equation in Lebanon though an anti- Syria and anti- Palestine government that would help the US disarm Palestinians and eventually help settle the Palestinians in Lebanon."

US President George Bush had triggered Arab wrath by saying Palestinian refugees could not return to land lost in 1948.

One of the floated scenarios is to settle Palestinian refugees in their current host countries, particularly Lebanon.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has registered at least 394.532 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, in addition to other thousands who have not been registered.

They reside in 12 camps through out Lebanon, the biggest being Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp in Saida. All camps are overcrowded and lack the basic infrastructure.

While some Lebanese blame the Palestinians for their civil war, others argue that the settlements of Palestinians, most Sunnis, would disrupt Lebanon's sectarian-based political balance.

Source: Ahmed Fathy- IOL
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon were guests and not above that country's law.

"We are determined not to interfere in domestic Lebanese affairs," Abbas told reporters at the White House following his meeting with President George W. Bush.

Earlier this week, Abbas had talks in Paris with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora about disarming Palestine Liberation Organization militias in Lebanon's refugee camps.
The same U.N. resolution 1559 that last year called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon also called for the disbanding of non-Lebanese militias.

There are around 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon living in 12 camps originally set up to receive people following the emergence of an Israeli state in 1948. Palestinian militias protect the camps and constitute the biggest security challenge to the Lebanese government.
Abbas said the refugees are "temporary guests and subject to the laws of Lebanon." However, no agreement was reached in the talks, and Abbas promised further discussion.

Source: WASHINGTON- UPI- 20/10/2005
Pressure has been mounting on Lebanon's Palestinian militias to disarm.

Fears that Syria is using them to retain some sort of grip on the country have been exacerbated by international pressure to implement UN resolution 1559, which calls for all non-government factions to lay down their guns.

But behind the high politics lies another, more human story.

Palestinian community leaders and NGO workers say that the real danger comes
from the deplorable conditions in which the country's 400,000 Palestinians - refugees since the establishment of Israel in 1948 - continue to live.

They argue that deteriorating services in the 12 cramped refugee camps and the lack of future prospects for the young are fomenting the conditions for extremism.

Sylvia Haddad, one of the Palestinian elite with Lebanese citizenship, runs the charity Joint Christian Committee (JCC), which provides refugees with training.

"Now there is no more ambition in the camps," she says. "They say, 'even if we study, we can't work'. Their big dream is to buy their cigarettes. This is very disturbing for us as Palestinian leaders."

The malaise means that her projects are suffering.

"I have the funding, I have the teachers, I have the equipment. I have everything. But I don't have the beneficiaries," she says.

"The Islamic groups are moving in. We - the NGOs - are moving out."
Unauthorised professions

Part of the problem is the restrictions placed by the Lebanese government on Palestinians' right to work, barring them from over 70 professions.

In August, it lifted the ban on 50 jobs, although the professions - law, medicine, engineering - remain off-limits.

But Palestinians say that, with a work permit costing hundreds of dollars, the change has had no impact.

"Nothing happened. No Palestinian has benefited from this rule," says Hasan Bakir, a Palestinian journalist for al-Quds newspaper.

In the heart of Shatila refugee camp, locals have domestic worries, too.

Every winter, residents in the southern end of the camp find their homes flooded as the over-worked water and sewage system fails to cope.

"Every year we are afraid of the water!" says Nadia Abdeen, resident of a ground-floor flat, describing how she threw away her contaminated furniture after the flood subsided.
"Not only the seats - the carpets, clothes, beds."

Like others in the camp, she has been feeling the effects of the funding crisis that has hit the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), which is charged with providing Palestinian refugees with services.

"All the people go to Unrwa, but they don't do anything," says Ms Abdeen.

Dreams of escape

Palestinian refugees draw little consolation from explanations that it is the growing population and rising healthcare costs, rather than cuts, that have led to poorer services.

"The needs are growing, but the budget is not growing at the same pace," says Hoda Souaiby, Unrwa's public information officer in Lebanon.

Other sections of Lebanon's Palestinian population have even fewer resources to draw on.
Fatima Kayed lives in Qasmieh in south Lebanon, one of many illegal "collections", or encampments scattered across the country.

She and her six children live in a makeshift home largely constructed of corrugated iron. "In winter, the water gets under and it is cold," she tells me.

Social worker Hannan Hassan, who runs a youth club in Qasmieh for the French charity Enfants Refugies du Monde, says that many young people dream of a better life abroad.
"There is no chance for the Palestinians to work, because if they get an engineering or a law degree - what is next? So they plan to work abroad - maybe illegally."

Her brother fell victim to a common scam, paying $2,000 - his life savings - for the prospect of emigration to Germany.

"This man asked him to visit his office in Beirut, but when I tried to go, I found it was a false address," she says.

PLO funding

Recently, NGOs have begun to highlight the plight of the "non-IDs", a group of Palestinians lacking identity papers who are not recognised by the Lebanese government or Unrwa.

They risk imprisonment if they are caught by the authorities, and survive on the black economy - or cash from political groups.

Mohammad al-Najjar, project co-ordinator for the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation, is campaigning for them to be officially recognised.

"We, as Palestinians, are worried about it. Of course, they will be very dangerous if the PLO stops the funding, and the situation is as it is now," he says.

"There are four to five thousand of them, and they are still young."

He warns that they, as much as anyone, might be the force that upsets Lebanon's delicate sectarian balance.

"If you put them in a corner, what can they do? They will replace the earth with paradise."

Source: Alex Klaushofer- Beirut- BBC


Rajah, a mother of four living in the Shatila refugee camp in the heart of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, dreams of going back to Palestine.

"My dream is to go home. This place is terrible," she said referring to the dilapidated refugee camp, which the UN says houses 12,000 Palestinians.

"We don't have anything here and my children suffer. They are ill and I can't get proper health care. My husband does construction work, but he is also off work because he is ill, so we have to beg and borrow," she said with a big sigh.

Aid workers say that part of the problem is that the rights of 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon are restricted. They are not allowed to own land and they are legally barred from many of the country's best paid jobs.

A walk around Shatila camp, which adjoins the sprawling and downtrodden Sabra neighbourhood of Beirut, is testament to the misery that many Palestinians living in Lebanon have to endure.

People are forced to brush past the exposed electricity wires and water pipes that protrude into Shatila's narrow streets. And the stench of sewage is everywhere under the hot midday sun.

"Many people have been electrocuted because of this and some have died," Rajah said referring to the exposed wires.

There are some 400,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Lebanon with the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and about half of them still live in camps, although not all of them are as bad as Shatila. The first wave arrived over half a century ago when the first Arab-Israeli war erupted in 1948.

About half of the Palestinian refugees still live in camps, and although not all are as bad as Shatila, aid workers say the the Palestinians face worse conditions in Lebanon than in neighbouring Jordan and Syria, where they are well integrated and have better facilities.

"They have few labour and property rights," said Hoda Samra Souaiby, a spokeswoman for UNRWA in Beirut. "There are many areas in which Palestinians are deprived,"


Palestinian refugees have been denied the right to own property since 2001, when a decree was issued saying that Palestinians were not allowed to own homes in the country.

The government said it passed the law to support of the right of return of Palestinians.

However, given the continuing tense security situation in Israel and areas governed by the Palestinian Authority, aid workers believe that conditions are not conducive for their early return.

"The real problem is that Palestinians are being dealt with on a security basis and not a humanitarian one. We have to organise Lebanese-Palestinians on the basis of respecting international laws that stipulate a refugee should be treated as an equal citizen but without the citizenship," said Ghassan Abdallah, the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation in Beirut.

"Here they applied the second part regarding nationality and forgot about equality," he added.
"This is a real nightmare for them," Souaiby stressed.


Until mid-2005, a total of 72 professions were restricted to Lebanese only, including all the high profile jobs such as medicine and law. This left very few job opportunities for the Palestinians and other migrant communities.

The situation improved, on paper at least, on 7 June, when the government issued a memorandum allowing Palestinian refugees to work in 50 of the 72 professions previously reserved for Lebanese, but they are still barred from several high-ranking ones, such as medicine and law.

And according to the Palestinians themselves there is still deep-rooted discrimination.

"A young man trained at one of our social centres in Shatila camp in IT applied for a job in three Lebanese companies, but was turned away," said Ahmed Halimeh of Popular Aid for Relief and Development (PARD), a Lebanese NGO that helps displaced people. "Employers said they would not employ him because he is not Lebanese," he added.

The teenager in question has now opted to open a computer shop in the refugee camp instead.

"The Palestinians are traditionally only employed in low wage and daily labour jobs, this is something which we cannot change easily," Halimeh complained .

Abdallah, at the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation, maintained that despite the June memo allowing refugees into more professions, the situation remained much the same.

"The truth is nothing much has changed on the ground, they still can't work as lawyers or doctors, and so most Palestinian workers continue to work the same way they did before and without the legal cover," he said.

UNRWA is not mandated to provide legal protection to refugees. "We do however, advocate with officials from a humanitarian point of view," the UNRWA spokeswoman noted.


Sabra and Shatila are in the poorest areas in Beirut and are now mainly home to Palestinians, although some Syrians and some Lebanese gypsies also live there. Both settlements were originally established in the 1950s to accommodate Palestinians fleeing the war in the Occupied Territories.

Walking into Shatila, there is a memorial square where people killed in the refugee massacre of 16 September 1982 are buried. Now known as Martyrs Square, the ground is a memorial place with graphic photos of dead bodies of women and children.

The slaughter of hundreds, some say thousands, of Palestinians, was committed by the Phalangists, a right wing Christian militia that was allied to the Israelis during their occupation of Beirut in 1982.

The Phalangists carried out the killings in revenge for the murder of their leader, Bashir Gemayel shortly before he was due to be sworn in as President of Lebanon. They believed Gemayel had been killed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and entered the camp looking for its members.

There is no official death toll for the massacre that ensued, but estimates range between 800 and 3,500.

Today, although the camp is peaceful, there are still bitter memories.

"I buried people here, we covered the bodies with metal sheets and then earth so that they would not be eaten by animals," Halimeh said referring to the spot where three brothers died together during the fighting.

Shatila also came under attack from Lebanon's Shi'ite Amal militia in 1986.

Although there is peace now, conditions in the camp have deteriorated.

"It's a hopeless situation here now," said Jamile Ibrahim Shehade, the head of one of 12 social centres in the camp. "There are 15,000 people living in one square kilometre,"

The centre she runs provides basic facilities such as a dental clinic and a nursery for children. It receives assistance from Norwegian People's Aid and the Lebanese NGO, PARD.

"This whole area was nothing before the camps were here and there has been very little done in terms of building infrastructure," Shehade explained.

Continued misery in camps has taken a heavy psychological toll on the residents of Sabra and Shatila, aid workers there say. Tempers run high as a result of frustration from the daily grind in the decrepit housing complex.

According to a 1999 survey by the local NGO Najdeh (Help), 29 percent of 550 women surveyed in seven of the 12 official refugee camps scattered across Lebanon, had endured physical violence.

Aid workers also warn that drug abuse is increasing in the refugee communities. They say hashish and cocaine consumption is rising fast.


Countrywide, UNRWA runs 87 schools and 25 primary health care centres that cater for the refugee population. However, these barely cover the Palestinians' basic needs and many communities are still without electicity and a reliable source of clean drinking water.

"Schools are doing double shifts and electricity and water are still very problematic," Shehade said.

Health services for the Palestinians leave much to be desired, although there is collaboration between UNRWA and the Lebanese Ministry of Health in some fields like the treatment of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis patients, the control of outbreaks of infectious diseases and the provision of vaccines used in national immunisation

"Palestine refugees are not treated at the expense of the Lebanese government," Souaiby said.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Source: BEIRUT- IRIN – 03/10/2005


The Lebanese NGO Frontiers Association has released the first comprehensive study of the legal and policy gaps that leave several thousand Palestinian refugees in Lebanon unrecognized by either the United Nations or the Lebanese Government.

Human rights groups have estimated that there are around 3000 Palestinians in Lebanon who have no Lebanese government identity papers and who also lack registration with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Lacking recognition, these “non-ID Palestinians” are effectively illegal aliens in Lebanon and denied access to social and economic relief. A larger group, called “non-registered Palestinians,” have Lebanese identity papers but lack registration with UNRWA.

Previous studies by human rights organizations have documented the daily hardships encountered by non-ID Palestinians. The Frontiers report, called Falling through the Cracks, is the first to thoroughly address the legal origins of the problem.

Palestinian refugees now number in the millions. Around 700,000 Palestinians were expelled by Israeli forces or fled fighting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. For most, their homes are inside what is now Israel; Israel refuses to allow their right of return. However, several hundred thousand more Palestinians fled the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and many individuals have moved between host countries. Palestinian refugees are commonly presumed to be the responsibility of UNRWA, but UNRWA has a mandate limited to providing relief assistance and works in only three countries plus the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Combining field study with legal analysis, Frontiers reports that the criteria used to define Palestinian refugee status have grown inadequate to accommodate the realities of a refugee crisis that is nearly 60-years-old. The report describes Lebanese regulations as ambiguous and ad hoc, largely a result of the country’s turbulent history. It faults UNRWA and the Lebanese government for worsening the non-recognition problem through discrimination against women.

In Falling through the Cracks, Frontiers notes that UNRWA’s “working definition” of a Palestine refugee is limited, and leaves many refugees who fled Palestine after 1948 with only de facto status as refugees. Frontiers also called for improved coordination between UNRWA and UNHCR to ensure “continuity of protection” for Palestinians in the Middle East, as called for in UNHCR’s 2002 statement on Palestinian refugee status.

Source: 25/08/2005


As Jewish activists thrashed and kicked Israeli police evacuating them from Gaza and West Bank settlements, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have expressed hope the turmoil would mark a turning point for their people.
Glued to a television set along with several other Palestinian men, Abed Suleiman watched Arab channels broadcasting scenes of settlers struggling as they were dragged away from synagogues by security forces.

"Look at the show they're putting on, grabbing on to land that is not in their name and has no historical link to them," said Suleiman, who said he has been a three-decade-long activist with Fatah - a group founded in 1958 by the late Yasser Arafat to work towards the creation of a Palestinian state.

He said the Jewish settlers were treating their scriptures as a "real estate agency in service of greater Israel".

"All the same, these evacuations are a turning point for the Palestinian people," said Abu Mohammed, 72, who is originally from Acco (Akka in Arabic) in northern Israel.

"After all these years, Palestinians from Gaza are finally seeing the occupation back away," he said.

Also watching was 70-year-old Mustapha Abu Kharrub, who was among the first wave of refugees who fled in 1948 and is originally from Ashkelon (Askalan in Arabic), which is adjacent to Gaza and is today part of Israel.

"The Israelis are showing how painful these evacuations are to try and get out of their obligations in the rest of occupied territory, but for the first time the Jewish state is reversing its settlement policy," said Kharrub.

He said he knew that the current Israeli operation to withdraw 8000 to 9000 settlers from 21 colonies had no immediate bearing on his own personal situation, or the lot of most of the 60,000 others in Ain al-Helweh, Lebanon's largest refugee camp.

Right of return

Israel has refused to allow Palestinians to return inside its borders, and resolving the issues of refugees - 380,000 of whom are inside Lebanon - has been reserved for the final phase of the road map peace plan.

Still, Kharrub said he had reason to be optimistic.

"It's true that these evacuations change nothing for Palestinians in their diaspora but the fact that Israel is putting the brakes on its policy of grabbing up Palestinian land is a good thing.

"Dozens of families from Gaza came to Ain al-Helweh in 1948. For them, the hope of returning is imaginable once the Gaza Strip is totally free of the occupation," he said.

Another Fatah member, Abu Adnan, said he saw the Israeli radical movement as isolated.

"Extremist settlers have not won over Israeli public opinion. The majority is for the evacuation according to public opinion polls, which is a good thing.

"A majority of Israelis seem to accept that they must reconsider the occupation of Palestinian territory seized after the 1967 war," Adnan added.

But 42-year-old Khalil Ibrahim, a teacher who did not hide his support for the anti-Israel resistance group Hamas, said the Palestinian fight against Israeli occupation had to continue.

"Israel is drawing back because of the resistance," he said.

"That's why we must keep up the armed struggle, then we will regain the West Bank and the rest of Palestine."

Source: Aljazeera net- 19/08/2005