With Washington’s blessing Lebanese Army pounds Palestinian refugees

By Joyce Chediac,
Published Jun 11, 2007 12:33 AM

June 5—Under the pretext of ridding Lebanon of groups that do not have the support of the Palestinians, the Lebanese Army’s wholesale bombardment of Palestinian homes has spread to a second refugee camp.

A new front was opened June 3 against the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian camp in southern Lebanon. Palestinian families there were caught in a fierce rifle and grenade exchange between an armed group and the Lebanese Army.

The army had already laid siege to the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp for 17 days, pounding it with missiles and machine-gun barrages.

While Palestinian homes are destroyed, Washington praises the Lebanese Army for acting in a “legitimate manner” and has sent the Beirut regime eight planes filled with weaponry.

In the midst of this massive assault, on May 30 the U.N. Security Council approved an international tribunal to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. This U.S.-backed tribunal has nothing to do with bringing justice to Lebanon and everything to do with bashing Syria and strengthening Lebanon’s right-wing.

These combined events pose a grave danger for Lebanon and the entire region. Unable to win in Iraq, Washington is desperately seeking to tighten its grasp in the strategic and oil-rich Middle East, no matter what the cost to the people who live there.

U.N. cover for U.S. aggression

While the U.N. does nothing to stop the assault against the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, its tribunal on Hariri’s death, falling under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, will have an unusual bite. Its resolutions will be binding, the U.N. will be able to indict and interrogate officials, and military action may be used to “restore international peace and security.” Washington means this tribunal to be the political cover for U.S. intervention, and possibly a war on Syria.

The Security Council resolution calling for the tribunal was passed 10 to 0. However, China, Qatar, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa abstained on a technicality. They objected to placing the tribunal under Chapter VII, as it requires political consensus in the country in question. No such consensus exists in Lebanon.

Hezbollah, which leads the progressive opposition in Lebanon, called the resolution “illegal and illegitimate” and “a violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon and an aggressive interference in its internal affairs.” Hezbollah and other groups’ demands for equal representation in the Lebanese government have fallen on deaf ears. Six months of mass demonstrations, trade union strikes and sit-ins by the progressive coalition, however, have ground the Lebanese government to a halt.

New threat to Syria

The U.S. utilized the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 to increase its control in Lebanon. However, Washington is still blaming Syria for the killing. The tribunal is a dagger aimed at Syria. It would provide imperialism with cover to violate Syrian sovereignty, witch-hunt its government and demand entry and inspections, much as it did in Iraq prior to the Desert Storm invasion. These are pre-war moves.

Meanwhile, Palestinian civilians are being bombed indiscriminately and the Lebanese Army is keeping reporters far away from the camps, according to many press sources.

Approximately 6,000 civilians are trapped in the Nahr el-Bared camp and their situation is “dire,” says the Red Cross. (New York Times, June 5) The majority remaining are the elderly and disabled. “Approximately 150 people are in wheelchairs. ... Since the [latest army] offensive began on Friday, no relief supplies have made their way into the camp.” The army is striking deeper in the camp, further destroying homes and the civilian infrastructure. ( June 3)

Franklin Lamb on Live from Lebanon, which is podcast online, interviewed refugees from Nahr al-Bared coming to Beddawi camp. On May 28 he said the residents of al-Bared were reporting sniper fire into the camp from private militias located on the slopes above army positions. Additionally, many young Palestinian men are being arrested as they leave al-Bared, said Lamb.

Palestinians say they are main target

“Not one Palestinian in either camp or observer I know believes that the goal is for the army to ‘wipe out the terrorists’ and ‘protect our Palestinian brothers,’” Lamb continued. “Rather, the Palestinian community in Lebanon believes that the whole Fatah al-Islam, a very strange case, was designed to assault their 420,000 population here.”

It is widely reported in the international press that the two armed groups in question, Jund al-Sham and Fatah al-Islam, which are based in Palestinian camps and recently attacked Lebanese Army positions, are not Palestinian and have no popular standing. Even the Washington Post, no friend to the Palestinians, said they “hide out in the country’s 12 crowded [Palestinian] camps.” (June 4)

Appearing on the Democracy Now radio show May 24, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh accused the Lebanese and U.S. governments of secretly backing the groups. This March, Hersh had reported in the New Yorker magazine that the U.S. and Saudi governments were covertly backing Sunni-based groups like Fatah al-Islam as a buffer against Iran and growing Shia influence in the area.

Palestinians say that they, not these groups, are the main target, and implicate the government in these groups’ having a presence in the camps.

Interviewed on May 28, Kaled Yamani, a youth organizer for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Biddawi camp, explained that “Fatah al-Islam originally [was] here in the Baddawi camp.” It clashed with Palestinian security and a Palestinian was killed. “Two of those caught were handed to the Lebanese government, a Saudi and a Syrian, and they were moved into Nahr al-Bared,” where the various factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization do not have arms or power.

Hajj Rif’at, director of media for Fatah and Lebanon spokesperson for the PLO, said Fatah al-Islam “was imposed on the camps. ... From the start, when this group first arrived in the [Biddawi] camp ... we raised our voice as Fatah and the PLO and we said that this group poses a danger on Lebanese-Palestinian relations. But unfortunately, no one listened to us until we found ourselves in the bind that we’re in now.” (, May 28)

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