Apr 30, 1998

report: "Who burned Nahr al-Bared?"

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Since 10 October 2007, residents of the destroyed Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp are gradually allowed to return to the ruins of their homes. However, the core of the camp, the so-called 'old camp', as well as parts of the 'new camp', remain sealed off and are still under exclusive Lebanese army control.

On 31 March 2008, the Lebanese army made a few dozen houses in Sahabe and Majles Street, close to Nahr al-Bared's old camp, accessible. In Majles Street, 20 buildings on one side of the street were opened, while the other side remains fenced off by barbed wire and army checkpoints. Most of these buildings were homes to at least 3 families as there were several floors high.

When people entered their homes they found many of their belongings such as furniture, clothes, and electronics, including TV’s, fridges, computers, gas stoves, and washing machines, have disappeared with no traces. In the case where their belongings were not missing, they were either burnt or deliberately destroyed. Even the frames of windows and doors as well as the doors themselves or bathroom infrastructure such as toilets or taps have disappeared.

All 20 buildings had signs of burning; sometimes, entire rooms or even floors were completely burnt. In many cases, there is clear evidence that furniture was used to start a fire within the home. In the al-Majles community center, for example, fire was set at three different points. At least in 16 of the buildings, traces of flammable liquids, including petrol and gasoline could be found on the walls. Thus, many residents doubt that the burnings were caused by shells, grenades or bombs and suspect the Lebanese army of setting their homes manually on fire.

In many homes, there were markings of racist and derogatory graffiti, often directed against residents of Nahr al Bared and Palestinians refugees in general. In some cases, the army itself painted over the graffities before they opened the homes to their residents.

From the official end date of the fighting in early September 2007 until March 30th 2008, all of Majles Street was under the exclusive control of the Lebanese army. Hence, the military bears full responsibility for whatever occurred in this area and its houses during this period.

Al-Majles street serves as an example for Nahr al-Bared camp as a whole. There is clear evidence for looting, arson and intentional destruction all over the camp. The systematic character of these occurrings point to the implementation of a policy of collective dispossession.

a-films produced a 10-minute film about the same subject.

This report was written by one of our activists. The original version was published here on Electronic Intifada.