The worst threat ever faced by the Lebanese?

Fatah Al-Islam the worst threat ever faced by the Lebanese? I hardly think so. Why is he making them such a big deal? To justify the senseless killing of at least 42 civilians (probably more), misery of thousands of refugees and destruction of a camp perhaps? You know a crime has taken place when exaggerated claims like this are used to justify the attack.

Lebanese troops killed at least 222 Islamist militants in three months of fighting at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon, the defence minister says.

Elias Murr said 202 militants from the Fatah al-Islam group were captured since fighting erupted in May.

A number have been charged with murder and terrorist offences.

The Lebanese army finally took control of Nahr al-Bared camp on Sunday. At least 160 soldiers died in Lebanon’s worst internal violence since 1990.

At least 42 civilians were also killed in the fierce fighting, bringing the death toll to more than 400.

Mr Murr added that “an undetermined number” of Fatah al-Islam members were buried in mass graves in the camp by their comrades.

“This victory allowed us to put an end to the worst threat ever faced by the Lebanese,” he said.

“Fatah al-Islam could have spread throughout the country like cancerous cells.”

On Monday, there was a brief eruption of gunfire and explosions near the eastern edge of Nahr al-Bared as army units patrolled through the camp in search for remnants of Fatah al-Islam.

BBC News

“Army torturing Palestinian refugees”

Anand Gopal and Saseen Kawzally, Electronic Lebanon, Aug 14, 2007

BADDAWI REFUGEE CAMP, Northern Lebanon, 13 August (IPS) – Palestinians displaced by the fighting at the northern Lebanese refugee camp Nahr al-Bared have accused the Lebanese army of torturing and abusing civilians.

As the fighting between the Sunni Islamist group Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army enters its 12th week, thousands of Nahr al-Bared residents have sought refuge in the nearby Baddawi camp. Many give detailed descriptions of days spent in detention under harsh interrogation.

Fadi Wahbi, 36, told IPS that he was detained for questioning by the Lebanese army as he fled Nahr al-Bared with family members. He was held for two days at the nearby Kobbeh military base and then transported, along with other young and middle-aged men who fled the fighting, to what he believes was the Ministry of Defense in Beirut.

There Wahbi’s long ordeal began. Prison officials accused him of belonging to Fatah al-Islam, and kept him blindfolded in a crowded prison cell for eight days with scores of others similarly accused. When he insisted on his innocence, they began to beat him.

“Every time I said that I was not lying, they struck a blow,” he recalled. “I did not know where the blows were coming from. I spent most of the eight days blindfolded and without sleep.” Prison authorities also tortured Wahbi, twisting his extremities almost to the point where he lost consciousness. Later he said he was forced to stand in excruciating positions for days.

“I expected it to last an hour or two, but they kept me standing, handcuffed behind my back, blindfolded, for 36 hours,” he said. “Every two or three hours I would fall to the floor. As soon as I hit the floor, someone would beat me up against the wall. It happened five or six times. Then I started to like falling, because it meant I could rest my legs. It was so painful that I preferred to fall and rest for a few seconds, even if that meant being beaten.”

Dozens of Palestinians were kept in a single room, without space to sleep and unable to communicate with each other.

“We were never allowed to stretch our legs. We slept handcuffed, sitting with our backs to the wall and legs bent,” he said. “If you stretched your legs, someone was there to kick you on your legs.”

He was eventually sent back to Kobbeh in northern Lebanon, and managed to reach a nearby hospital after his release.

The psychological toll was extreme. Wahbi recalled that “at one point, I was seeing things. Unreal things. One time I imagined a door opening up in the wall that led me to my family. I stood up and ran into the wall. A guard came to me and shouted ‘What are you doing? Are you trying to hurt yourself? You are not allowed to hurt yourself, only we are allowed to hurt you.’ And he started beating me.”

Wahbi’s story mirrors the testimonies of dozens of Palestinians, most of whom are too terrified to speak on the record. Milad Salameh, a nurse at the Shifa’ Clinic in the Baddawi camp, says he has seen more than 30 cases of abuse at the army’s hands.

“Many of the injuries we received,” he told IPS, “were sustained under detention, inside the army detention centers. Many people came with signs of torture, abuse and beatings. We saw signs of electrical shocks as well, and some even reported sexual abuses, such as rape by bottle.”

The Shahed Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, based in Beirut, has documented over 50 cases of torture of Nahr al-Bared residents. Its director, Mahmoud al-Hanafi, told IPS that the army has systematically ignored human rights in its battle with Fatah al-Islam, and called upon both the army and Fatah al-Islam to respect the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of civilians during wartime.

Lebanese army spokesperson Gen. Salah Hajj Suleiman told IPS that “the Lebanese army is a national institution and we abide by the laws of the government. We do not abuse civilians.” He added that “the Lebanese army doesn’t arrest anyone if they have no problems or criminal background.”

Fighting began in late May when Fatah al-Islam, which in the preceding months had established itself in Nahr al-Bared, opened fire on Lebanese security forces. The ensuing battle between the army and the militants has left hundreds dead, and many Palestinians accuse the army of attacking unarmed civilians.

In one incident recounted by displaced locals in Baddawi, and documented by the Shahed centre, Nahr al-Bared resident Nayef Salah Saleh attempted to drive a van with 25 civilians out of the camp. Witnesses claim that army snipers shot and killed Saleh, causing the van to lose control and come to a stop.

When Muntaha Abu Khalil, pregnant four months, opened the door she too fell in a storm of gunfire. The army then surrounded the van and detained many of its occupants, including three children. The children, including Amer Bahij Abdallah, 16, say they were then tortured.

Abdallah recalled that “my face was covered with a black cloth, and I was punched, beaten and given electrical shocks to force me to give information about Fatah al-Islam.” He said he had nothing to do with the group.

Since the fighting in the north began, hundreds of Palestinians claim to have been arrested and beaten at army checkpoints throughout the country. One Palestinian aid worker from Tripoli in Lebanon, who spoke anonymously to IPS, said that “about ten soldiers beat me up at a checkpoint because I was joking with a friend.”

Others, like Ahmad Hazbour, a former Nahr al-Bared resident, claimed that they were beaten and verbally abused at checkpoints and then detained.

The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Many came to Lebanon, and have lived in the dense, claustrophobic camps there ever since. The refugees are legally considered foreigners and are therefore barred from many basic rights enjoyed by Lebanese citizens, including a right to work (over 70 professions are proscribed). Nor can Palestinians in Lebanon own property or enter into the political process.

“The camp was attacked because we are Palestinian,” said Nahr al-Bared resident Muhammad Naddwi, 23, echoing a sense of discrimination felt by many Palestinians here. The camps have often come under fire from various armies — the Lebanese army destroyed the Nabatiyeh camp in 1973, and many Nahr al-Bared residents are displaced refugees from the Tel al-Zaatar camp, which was destroyed by Christian forces in 1976.

With their home destroyed and the memory of torture and abuse still fresh, many Palestinians from Nahr al-Bared are shaken and without hope.

“Some of them, when they came out of detention, came straight here to the clinic,” nurse Salameh said. “They did not want to talk to anyone or be treated. They just wanted a safe place where they could be on their own, and cry.”

All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2007). Total or partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden.

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article8941.shtml

Electronic Lebanon: Shatila & Press Freedom

None of the people I spoke to in Shatila expressed any sympathy with Fateh al-Islam; they just showed concern and anger at the way the Lebanese Army is shelling the camp and destroying the houses of the people.

Nadia says that her cousin said seventy percent of his neighborhood in the camp is totally destroyed. “Maybe it is all leveled now.” Nadia, as everybody else in the camp, feels that the Palestinians are paying a price for a fight that has nothing to do with them. It is not a Palestinian group, not a group fighting for the Palestinian or refugee cause, they just were operating from the camp. As for why they had come there, most of the people have the same answer: they always referred to the unbearable conditions of the refugees in the camp, a fact that made them subject to all sorts of exploitation.

If Shatila residents are pretty sure of their disconnection with Fateh al-Islam, they are pretty sure too that something is awaiting them, something that does not look good.

Electronic Lebanon: Solidarity in Shatila

The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that journalists have been prevented since Monday from entering a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon during clashes between Islamist militants and the Lebanese Army.

….

Journalists told CPJ that they suspected the army was also attempting to hinder coverage of the humanitarian crisis inside the camp where, according to news reports, more than a dozen civilians were killed and 12,000 refugees forced to flee the camp.

….

Attacks against journalists were also reported. Al-Akhbar photographer Wael al-Ladifi, Al-Balad photographer Asad Ahmad, Agence France-Presse photographer Ramzy Haidar, and Al-Alam cameraman Ali Tahimi said they were beaten by members of the Lebanese Army on Thursday.

….

In related news, television crews from three different stations came under attack from civilians while covering the aftermath of a bomb blast in the mountainous town of Aley, east of Beirut on Wednesday night.

Electronic Lebanon: Lebanese Army imposes restrictions on coverage of camp siege

Blacksmiths of Lebanon: Syria’s Media Insurgency in Lebanon

An article exploring the issues of Hariri and the government supporting militias, trying to discount it or play it down.  I find anyone that considers the attrocities commited in Nahr Al-Bared as a victory or as something worth uniting behind has already lost credibility as a source.  This is still worth reading for an alternative perspective.

Almost as soon as the Syrian-backed Fatah al-Islam group launched a series of suprise attacks on Lebanese Army outposts and patrols, Syria’s other allies in the country mounted a suprise attack of their own, attempting to transform a battle that should have rallied all Lebanese together in the defense of the state into a partisan conspiracy aimed at breaking any potential unity that could have arisen out of this week’s national tragedy and impending victory.

Blacksmiths of Lebanon: Syria’s Media Insurgency in Lebanon

Franklin Lamb: Inside Nahr el-Bared

“Another Waco in the Making”
Inside Nahr el-Bared
By FRANKLIN LAMB

Bedawi and Nahr el-Bared Palestinian Refugee Camps, Lebanon.

With very intermittent internet access and this ancient pc with one lone wire running from the spaghetti wiring system tied to the ceiling and taped to a single bare light bulb socket, plus 8 toddlers, two babies, crawling over and under this ‘foreigner’ in a 10 x 12 concrete room where 28 or more of us slept on the floor last night, this blurb may never be sent. But if it does get out and for what it’s worthan update on the situation in the Palestinian Nabr al-Bared and Bedawi Camps. Will try to send results shortly of my interviews with 11 Fatah al-Islam fighters regarding who paid them and got them travel documents and weapons and what was their mission. There was no bank robbery by them. That wasa fake story put out by the Welch Club. Sorry I misreported it. BBC was suckered. Also, no, repeat no heads cut off. Where are the medical reports from those who claim it? That was black propaganda to smear Fatah el-Islam. Must leave this building nowmay not be until tomorrow or so.

Bedawi is teeming with new arrivals from al-Bared where there is still no water, power or food. A few NGO’s still negotiating with army for permission to enter. (Still possible to sneak in from the east but getting more dangerous to try it). The problem is not being shot by Fatah al-Islam anymore. They are digging in. And the army is not as trigger happy as on Monday-Wednesday. The “security agents” on the slopes above the army looking down into al-Baled are the main sniper danger. People claim they are Hariri militia but I can not confirm that. The army told the PLO they would stop them but as of Saturday night they are still shooting. They are trying to shoot anyone they see inside or leaving al-Balad. Someone should stop them.

Several hours ago I met a woman arriving from al-Bared who had walked the whole 7 miles with an 18 month old baby and a daughter of 5 who just stares into the press cameras with her mouth open and eyes glazed over. The Palestinian mother told us neither she nor her children have eaten or taken water for four days. The children will be ok. The mother’s husband is in Syria she said and she has no relatives.

One NGO group of three from Beirut left a few hours ago in tears from frustration, sadness and anger from repeatedly being stopped by the army from taking supplies to al Barad. Their cargo of water and blankets abandoned. On Saturday the Palestinian Red Crescent, which for a quarter century has provide the medical service to both camps has been formally and completely banned from al-Bared and told they will be shot if they try to enter al-Bared. I met with the PRCS leadership and drivers.

There is some-near panic in Bedawi caused by many rumors. One rumor, widely believed, is that the Lebanese government plans to demolish al-Bared to make room for the huge US/NATO airbase which is to be built next to the camp. 5,000 of the Palestinians in al-Bared are from the 1975 ethnically cleansed east Beirut camp Telazatter. The PLO moved them to al-Bared at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war (1975-90) and they live close together in one al-Bared neighborhood. Saw women wailing that they may be another Telazatter massacre and destruction of their homes.

Many Palestinian young men are being arrested as they leave al-Bared. An old woman sleeping in the same room as me last night told us that her son was taken as he left al-Bared on Monday and she has not heard from him. There are now 6 check points between Tripoli and Beirut. Many (I was told all but have not confirmed it) Palestinian males traveling to Beirut are being arrested and taken for interrogation. Some from al-Bared are afraid to try to go to Beirut and stay with relatives.

Fear among PLO camp leaders that there could be a blood bath. “It’s the Bush complex,” one German NGO volunteer said. “The Lebanese government wants to be macho like the Israelis to gain some respect. This could be another Waco in the making, for no reason.” The PLO is trying to mediate with the army to avoid a slaughter that would occur if the army tries to enter al-Bared. “What is needed is leadership and for the warlords to keep quiet. The army has behaved very badly but it’s the politicians fault.”

Great fear that the army will try to enter al-Bared.

The army moved the press position to more than one mile from al Bared, “for security”. The army has orders to give no information to the press. Some journalists feel something terrible is going to happen here. Just heard the army has now completely sealed the camp. No access to the wounded still in basements and bombed houses needing help Palestinians activist in Bedawi say that if the army goes into al-Bared and makes a massacre that Palestinian from all over Lebanon will fight. This may be what some here or outside Lebanon are hoping for.

The Welch Club wants the army to “wipe out the terrorists”, and “protect our Palestinian brothers”. Not one Palestinian in either camp or observer I know believes that. Rather the Palestinian community here believes that the whole Fatah al-Islam “very strange case” was designed to assault their 420,000 population here.

School is cancelled in Bedawi because up to 20,000 from Bared are being housed in them. Food and water are arriving intermittently but distribution is not yet well organized. Much angst among the arrivals who come with only what they are wearing.

Joy to find al-Bared loved ones. Statements are heard on the crowded streets such as” why did the army fire on us? There were no fighters in our area?” “Where was their artillery during the July war? Why did they not fight Israel and now bomb us”?

The leader of Nahr al Bared Women’s association accused Lebanon’s envoy Abbas Zaki of not helping the refugees and with cooperating with the government and Israel. ‘He should come here’, one woman said. Abu Ammar or Abu Jihad (Arafat and his deputy Khalil al Wazir) would have come if they were alive”. Fatah is weak in Bedawi and even weaker in al-Bared.

Seven PLO factions operate in both camps. They jointly chased Fatah al-Islam out of Bedawi on September 21, 2006 not long after they split from Abu Musa’s Fateh Intifida which has been based in Badawi since 1983. Fatah Intifada still man’s the entrance to Bedawi but they seem to have only about 100 members left. When one interviews them they are almost apologetic about their step-brothers, Fatah al-Islam. “We expelled them because we did not like their friends (Hariri intelligence staff) they were too religious and acted strange but we did not think things would come to this”) but the al-Barad PLO factions do not have arms or power to confront FAI.

Amazing examples of humanity happening here. There are many family connections between the two camps. Kids distribute and water bread when it arrives in cars from Beirut and elsewhere. Young girls picking up and caring for babies of people they don’t know, helping old people find a place to sit and listen to them when they tell of what happened. I could be wrong but I have rarely witnessed the solidarity among people as I see here with the Palestinians. Clean, smart, patient, charming, funny, and caring toward one another-determined to return to Palestine

Many who have been in Badawi for nearly a week now just want to just go back and die in their al-Bared homes. On 5/25/07 the Palestinian group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine tried to organize a convoy of those who wanted to return to al-Bared. The plan is to go as far as they can and refuse to leave the army checkpoints until they are allowed back in. The convoy did not leave Bedawi yet and the idea may be abandoned.

Franklin Lamb: Inside Nahr el-Bared

Hezbollah urges political solution for north Lebanon

He talked about other means to deal with Fath-Al-Islam

The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب

“The problem in the north can be solved politically and through the judiciary in a way that protects the Lebanese army, our Palestinian brothers, the state and peace and stability without transforming Lebanon into a battleground in which we fight al-Qaida on behalf of the Americans,” he said in a televised address.Naharnet News Desk Nasrallah Opposes Military Incursion Into Nahr al-BaredBut in a TV address Hezbollah’s leader said the conflict could be solved politically and should not escalate. And he outlined Hezbollah’s opposition to any militant incursion into the camp.“The Nahr el-Bared camp and Palestinian civilians are a red line,” Sheikh Nasrallah said.

“We will not accept or provide cover or be partners in this.”

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Hezbollah head warns against raid

As a Shia group, Hezbollah views Sunni fighters like Fatah al-Islam as enemies and surely will welcome finishing them off by the Lebanese army.Nasrallah said the Fatah al- Islam fighters who attacked the military should be brought to justice.

But he said Hezbollah opposed any military incursion into the camp to crush the fighters.

He said: “The Nahr el-Bared camp and Palestinian civilians are a red line. We will not accept or provide cover or be partners in this.”

Hezbollah urges political solution for north Lebanon problem | Ya Libnan | Lebanon News Live from Beirut

When the Israelis do this, we scream at the injustice, but when the Lebanese army does it we applaud them.

 “In the first three days of the recent events involving the Lebanese army and Fateh el-Islam in the Nahr el-Bared camp, the Lebanese army committed what would amount to war crimes in a similar fashion to that of the Israeli army in Gaza and in Lebanon last summer, firing on a civilian population indiscriminately. When the Israelis do this, we scream at the injustice, but when the Lebanese army does it we applaud them. These are double standards.” Electronic Lebanon: Cheering to the beat of the Palestinians’ misery

Displaced children from Nahr al-Bared camp staying at an UNRWA school in Badawi camp. (Image courtesy of Marcy Newman)

What can I say? The fighting wasn’t against Fateh al-Islam. The fighting was against our homes. Our homes were destroyed. If you were to go inside the camp, and see the camp for yourself, you would say the same. No homes [are] left.

Electronic Lebanon: “They may accept us for a day or two but for how long?”