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Lebanon: Anger Rebuilding of Palestinian Camp Suspended

JustImage: Matthew Cassel

Anger and protests erupted in response to the Lebanese Government's decision to suspend the reconstruction of the Nahr el Bared Palestinian refugee camp.

Hundreds protested in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli last week against the suspension, but as Lebanon-based photojournalist and blogger, Matthew Cassel, explains on his blog, JustImage, even that was a difficult process:

JustImage: Matthew Cassel

Hundreds of refugees from the camp and their supporters gathered in Tripoli, the closest major city to Nahr al-Bared. After being denied a permit to protest at the police station near the city’s center, organizers changed the location to an area far away from symbolic government buildings and people.

The camp was the centre of a bloody insurrection in 2007 when Islamist militants of Fatah al-Islam clashed with the Lebanese Army, killing dozens in the process.

Much of the camp suffered significant damage during the fighting, forcing thousands of Palestinian refugees to find shelter in neighbouring, overcrowded refugee camps and villages.

Slow reconstruction plans were dealt a further blow on August 13 this year when the Lebanese Government decided to suspend reconstruction efforts for archaeological purposes.

JustImage: Matthew Cassel

The move was spearheaded by Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader, Michel Aoun, who cited archaeological artifacts newly discovered under Nahr el Bared as a pretext to halt reconstruction. Critics believe Aoun's stance is politically motivated.

Two years since fighting ended at Nahr el Bared, thousands of Palestinian refugees remain stranded without homes and, along with a number of Lebanese, are simply fed up.

The blogosphere was quick to respond with the creation of a new blog dedicated to the promotion of the rights of the Palestinian refugees of Nahr el Bared.

Informative maps and updates on the progress of the reconstruction can be found on the new blog, Nahr Al Bared. This is what a blogger had to say about the halt in reconstruction work:

This action comes after two years of delaying bureaucratic procedures, where every decision concerning the reconstruction project, including planning and design decisions of the master plan, required governmental, ministerial and political approvals. More significantly this is the first time that a decision which halts actual work on site is taken, hence prolonging the displacement period of more than 20,000 Palestinian refugees.

Outrage was also expressed by blogger, Mlokheya Resistance:

After two years of destroying Nahr ElBared refugee camp, its residents were delighted to hear that the reconstruction plan was about to become a reality. However, once it was launched, the Lebanese government has suspended the reconstruction of Nahr ElBared, AGAIN!!!

Twitterers were also on the ball, retweeting and raising awareness of the plight of Nahr el Bared refugees:

Tweeting Nahr el BaredOther bloggers, including Body on the Line and Green Resistance also publicised the Tripoli protest.

*Images supplied by JustImage

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