Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon has been the site of fierce fighting between the Lebanese government and the Fatah al-Islam group for several days.
The violence has led to an exodus of thousands of refugees, already displaced from Palestine two generations ago. Now, the refugees are running from the camp on foot, on donkeys, and, for the lucky ones, by car.
They don't know where they are headed, but after being bombed and attacked by the Lebanese government, they know they can no longer remain in the refugee camp.
United Nations trucks trying to bring supplies, as well as Red Cross aid workers, have been denied access to the refugee camp. Up to 10,000 refugees are expected to flee the camp by the end of Tuesday night.Sheikh Salim Lababidi, mufti of Palestinians in Lebanon and the diaspora, said that he had word of at least 100 civilians killed in the camp. Most of those killed were hit by Lebanese military shelling, and some by gunfire from the Fatah al-Islam group.
The national and international department of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) voiced an appeal to the Lebanese government to protect the refugees in the refugee camps. The PLO representative added that the PLO is keeping a watch on the clashes between the Lebanese military and the Fatah al-Islam group, and emphasized that Fatah al-Islam is not connected in any way with any of the Palestinian factions.
The representative also added that the Lebanese government has a right to deal with the Fatah al-Islam group, but the Lebanese government must take all possible measures to protect the civilians, and refrain from shelling the refugee camps. Such shelling, says the PLO, will cause a massive humanitarian disaster. The group called on the Palestinian refugee population to peacefully put an end to the rise of the Fatah al-Islam group inside the refugee camps.
Ahmad Bahar, the acting head of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Palestine, also issued a statement on behalf of the Palestinian government. He called on Palestinian and Lebanese officials to come together to end the violence and provide immediate aid and protection to the Palestinian refugees. The Legislative Council urged all parties to use peaceful means to end the conflict, in order to avoid further civilian casualties.
The fighting began in the camp several days ago, when the Lebanese army began a massive campaign to destroy the Fatah al-Islam group, which they blame for terrorist attacks. But civilians in the camp have challenged the Lebanese policy of indiscriminate shelling as a way to target fighters. They say this only leads to widespread civilian casualties.