[News] Who's Behind the Fighting in North Lebanon?
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 24 12:26:12 EDT 2007
May 24, 2007
Inside Narh al-Bared and Bedawi Refugee Camps
Who's Behind the Fighting in North Lebanon?
By FRANKLIN LAMB
Wearing a beat-up ratty UNCHR tee-shirt left over
from Bint Jbeil and the Israeli-Hezbollah July
probably helped. As did, I suspect, the Red Cross
jersey, my black and white checkered kaffieyh and
the Palestinian flag taped to my lapel as I
joined a group of Palestinian aid workers and
slipped into Nahr el-Bared trying not to look conspicuous.
Our mission was to facilitate the delivery of
food, blankets and mattresses, but I was also
curious about the political situation. Who was
behind the events that erupted so quickly and
violently following a claimed 'bank robbery'? A
heist that depending on who you talked to, netted
the masked bandits $ 150,000, $ 1,500 or $ 150!
It seems that every Beirut media outlet has a
different source of 'inside information' based on
which Confession owns it and 'knows' the real
culprits pulling the strings. But then, even we
who are particularly obtuse have realized, as the
late Rafic Hariri often counseled: "In Lebanon,
believe nothing of what you are told and only half of what you see!"
My friends made we swear out loud that I would
claim to be Canadian instead of American if Al
Qaeda types stopped us inside the Camp. My
impression was that they were not so worried
about my safety but for their own if they got
caught with me. It would not be the first time
that I relied on my northern neighbors to get me
out of a potential US nationality jam in the
Middle East, so I ditched my American ID.
We were advised as we approached the Fatah al
Islam stronghold that we would be in the
cross-hairs of Lebanese army snipers from outside
of Nahr el-Bared Camp as well as Fatah al-Islam
snipers from the inside, and that any false move or bad luck could prove fatal.
After three days of shelling and more than 100
dead and with no electricity or water, Nahr
el-Baled reeks of burned and rotting flesh,
charred houses with smoldering contents, raw
sewage and the acrid smell of exploded mortars and tank rounds.
Press figures of 30,000-32,000 are not accurate.
45,000 live in Bared! Contrary to some reports
food and water still not being allowed in.
15 to 70 percent of some areas destroyed. Some
light shooting this morning and afternoon. Army
shelling at rate of 10-18 shells per minute from
4:30 am to 10 am on Tuesday. Army will not allow
Palestinian Red Crescent to move out civilians
because they don't trust them. Only the Lebanese
Red Cross is allowed. It is possible to enter
Bared from the back (east side). The Army taking
cameras of journalists they catch. The Lebanese
government is controlling the information and
don't want extent of damage known yet. Still
unrecovered bodies. 40 per cent of the camp
population have been evacuated. The rest don't
want to leave out of fear of being shot or that
they are losing their homes for the 5th time or more for some.
No electricity and cell phone batteries are
dying. Relatives who fled are telling families to
stay because there are not enough mattresses at
Bedawi Camp. Bared evacuees are living up to 25
in one room in Badawi schools etc. 3,000 evacuees
in one school in Bedawi. UN aid is starting to
arrive at Badawi but workers not able so far to
deliver it to Bared due to attack on relief convoy on Tuesday.
I met Abdul Rahman Hallab famous for Lebanese
candy factory in Tripoli. Helped him unload 5,000
meals to evacuees from Bared staying in Badawi. He is Lebanese not Palestinian.
The camp population all say that Fatah Al-Islam
came in September-October 2006 and have no
relatives in the camp. They are from Saudi,
Pakistan, Algeria, Iraq, and Tunisia and
elsewhere. No Palestinians among them except some
hanger ons. Most say they are paid by the Hariri group.
Reports that Fateh al-Islam helps people in Bared
are denied. " All they do is pray, one woman told
me..and do military training.. They are much more
religious than the Shia" she said.
Population of Badawi camp was 15,000 and as of
this morning it is 28,000. Four bodies arrived
this morning at Safad, the only Palestinian Red
Crescent Hospitals in north Lebanon.
I was told the army will have to destroy every
house in Bared to remove Fateh al Islam.
I expect to stay in Bared tonight with aid
workers. Some say FAI with die fighting others
than a settlement could be negotiated. I may try
the latter with NGO from Norway here. Not sure if
anyone in government is interested. One minute
ago a member of Fateh at_Islam walked into the
medical office I am using at Safed Hospital and
said they want a permanent cease fire and do not
want more people killed or injured.
They claim to have no problem with the army
Now some background about Nahr el-Bared. Like the
other Palestinian camps in Lebanon, it is
inhabited by Palestinians who were forced from
their homes, land, and personal property in
1947-48, in order to make room for Jews from
Europe and elsewhere prior to the May 15, 1948 founding of Israel.
Of the original 16 Refugee camps, set up to
settle the more than 100,000 refugees crossing
the border into Lebanon from Palestine during the
Nakba, 12 official ones remain. The camp at Tal
El-Za`tar was ethnically cleansed by Christian
Phalange forces at the beginning of the
1975-1990, Lebanese Civil War and the Nabatieh,
Dikwaneh and Jisr el-Basha camps were destroyed
by Israeli attacks and Lebanese militia and not
rebuilt. Those remaining include the following
which currently house more than half of Lebanon's 433,276 Palestinian refugees:
Al-Badawi, Burj El-Barajna, Jal El-Bahr, Sabra
and Shatilla, Ain El-Helwa, Nahr El-Bared,
Rashidieh, Burj El Shemali, El-Buss, Wavel, Mieh Mieh and Mar Elias.
Nahr el-Bared is 7 miles north of Tripoli near
the stunning Mediterranean coast and is home to
more than 32,000 refuges many of whom were
expelled from the Lake Huleh area of Palestine,
including Safed. Like all the official
Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, plus
several 'unofficial' ones, Nahr el-Bared suffers
from serious problems including no proper
infrastructure, overcrowding, poverty and unemployment.
Tabulated at more than 25%, Nahr el-Bared has the
highest percentage of Palestinian refugees
anywhere who are living in abject poverty and who
are officially registered with the UN as "special hardship" cases.
Its residents, like all Palestinians in Lebanon
are blatantly discriminated against and not even
officially counted. They are denied citizenship
and banned from working in the top 70 trades and
professions (that includes McDonald's and KFC in
downtown Beirut) and cannot own real estate.
Palestinians in Lebanon have essentially no
social or civil rights and only limited access to
government educational facilities. They have no
access to public social services. Consequently
most rely entirely on the UNRWA as the sole provider for their families needs.
It is not surprising that al-Qaeda sympathies, if
not formal affiliations, are found in the 12
official camps as well as 7 unofficial ones.
Groups with names such as Fateh al-Islam, Jund
al-Shams (Soldier of Damascus) , Ibns al-Shaheed"
(sons of the martyrs) Issbat al-Anssar which
morphed into Issbat al-Noor - "The Community of Illumination" and many others.
Given Bush administration debacles in Iraq and
Afghanistan and its encouragement for Israel to
continue its destruction of Lebanon this past
summer, the situation in Lebanon mirrors, in some
respects, the early 1980's when groups sprung up
to resist the US green lighted Israeli invasion
and occupation. But rather than being Shia and
pro-Hezbollah, today's groups are largely Sunni
and anti-Hezbollah. Hence they qualify for US
aid, funneled by Sunni financial backers in
league with the Bush administration which is
committed to funding Islamist Sunni groups to weaken Hezbollah.
This project has become the White House obsession
following Israel's July 2006 defeat.
To understand what is going on with Fatah
al-Islam at Nahr el-Bared one would want a brief
introduction to Lebanon's amazing, but shadowy 'Welch Club'.
The Club is named for its godfather, David Welch,
assistant to Secretary of State Rice who is the
point man for the Bush administration and is guided by Eliot Abrams.
Key Lebanese members of the Welch Club (aka: the 'Club') include:
The Lebanese civil war veteran, warlord,
feudalist and mercurial Walid Jumblatt of the
Druze party( the Progressive Socialist Party or PSP)
Another civil war veteran, warlord, terrorist
(Served 11 years in prison for massacres
committed against fellow Christians among others)
Samir Geagea. Leader of the extremist Phalange
party and its Lebanese Forces (LF) the group that
conducted the Israel organized massacre at
Sabra-Shatilla (although led by Elie Hobeika,
once Geagea's mentor, Geagea did not take part in
the Sept. 1982 slaughter of 1,700 Palestinian and Lebanese).
The billionaire, Saudi Sheikh and Club president
Saad Hariri leader of the Sunni Future Movement (FM).
Over a year ago Hariri's Future Movement started
setting up Sunni Islamist terrorist cells (the
PSP and LF already had their own militia since
the civil war and despite the Taif Accords
requiring militia to disarm they are now rearmed
and itching for action and trying hard to provoke Hezbollah).
The FM created Sunni Islamist 'terrorist' cells
were to serve as a cover for (anti-Hezbollah)
Welch Club projects. The plan was that actions of
these cells, of which Fatah el-Islam is one,
could be blamed on al Qaeda or Syria or anyone but the Club.
To staff the new militias, FM rounded up remnants
of previous extremists in the Palestinian Refugee
camps that had been subdued, marginalized and
diminished during the Syrian occupation of
Lebanon. Each fighter got $700 per month, not bad in today's Lebanon.
The first Welch Club funded militia, set up by
FM, is known locally as Jund-al-Sham (Soldiers of
Sham, where "Sham" in Arabic denotes Syria,
Lebanon, Palestine & Jordan) created in
Ain-el-Hilwa Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon.
This group is also referred to in the Camps as
Jund-el-Sitt (Soldiers of the Sitt, where "Sitt"
in Sidon, Ain-el-Hilwa and the outskirts pertain
to Bahia Hariri, the sister of Rafiq Hariri, aunt
of Saad, and Member of Parliament).
The second was Fateh-al-Islam (The name cleverly
put together, joining Fateh as in Palestinian and
the word Islam as in Qaeda). FM set this Club
cell up in Nahr-al-Bared refugee camp north of
Tripoli for geographical balance.
Fatah el-Islam had about 400 well paid fighters
until three days ago. Today they may have more or
fewer plus volunteers. The leaders were provided
with ocean view luxury apartments in Tripoli
where they stored arms and chilled when not in
Nahr-al-Bared. Guess who owns the apartments?
According to members of both Fatah el-Islam and
Jund-al-Sham their groups acted on the directive
of the Club president, Saad Hariri.
So what went wrong? "Why the bank robbery" and the slaughter at Nahr el-Baled?
According to operatives of Fatah el-Islam, the
Bush administration got cold feet with people
like Seymour Hirsh snooping around and with the
White House post-Iraq discipline in free fall.
Moreover, Hezbollah intelligence knew all about
the Clubs activities and was in a position to
flip the two groups who were supposed to ignite a
Sunni Shia civil war which Hezbollah vows to prevent.
Things started to go very wrong quickly for the Club last week.
FM "stopped" the payroll of Fateh el-Islam's
account at the Hariri family owned back.
Fateh-al-Islam, tried to negotiate at least
'severance pay' with no luck and they felt
betrayed. (Remember many of their fighters are
easily frustrated teenagers and their pay
supports their families). Militia members knocked
off the bank which issued their worthless checks.
They were doubly angry when they learned FM is
claiming in the media a loss much greater than
they actually snatched and that the Club is going
to stiff the insurance company and actually make a huge profit.
Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (newly
recruited to serve the bidding of the Club and
the Future Movement) assaulted the apartments of
Fatah-al-Islam Tripoli. They didn't have much
luck and were forced to call in the Lebanese army.
Within the hour, Fatah-al-Islam retaliated
against Lebanese Army posts, checkpoints and
unarmed, off-duty Lebanese soldiers in civilian
clothing and committed outrageous killings including severing at four heads.
Up to this point Fatah-al-Islam did not retaliate
against the Internal Security forces in Tripoli
because the ISF is pro-Hariri and some are
friends and Fatah al-Islam still hoped to get
paid by Hariri. Instead Fatah al Islam went after the Army.
The Seniora cabinet convenes and asks the
Lebanese Army to enter the refugee camp and
silence (in more ways than one) Fatah-al-Islam.
Since entrance into the Camps is forbidden by the
1969 Arab league agreement, the Army refuses
after realizing the extent of the conspiracy
against it by the Welch Club. The army knows that
entering a refugee camp in force will open a
front against the Army in all twelve Palestinian
refugee camps and tear the army apart along sectarian cracks.
The army feels set up by the Club's Internal
Security Forces which did not coordinate with the
Lebanese Army, as required by Lebanese law and
did not even make them aware of the "inter family
operation" the ISF carried out against Fatah-al-Islam safe houses in Tripoli.
Today, tensions are high between the Lebanese
army and the Welch Club. Some mention the phrase 'army coup'.
The Club is trying to run Parliament and is
prepared to go all the way not to 'lose' Lebanon.
It still holds 70 seats in the house of
parliament while the Hezbollah led opposition
holds 58 seats. It has a dutiful PM in Fouad Siniora.
The club tried to seize control of the presidency
and when it failed it marginalized it. Last year
it tried to control of the Parliamentary
Constitutional Committee, which audits the
government's policies, laws and watch dogs their
actions. When the Club failed to control it they
simply abolished the Constitutional Committee.
This key committee no longer exists in Lebanon's government.
The Welch Club's major error was when it
attempted to influence the Lebanese Army into
disarming the Lebanese Resistance led by
Hezbollah. When the Army wisely refused, the Club
coordinated with the Bush Administration to
pressure Israel to dramatically intensify its
retaliation to the capture of the two soldiers by
Hezbollah and 'break the rules' regarding the
historically more limited response and try to
destroy Hezbollah during the July 2006 war.
The Welch Club now considers the Lebanese Army a
serious problem. The Bush administration is
trying to undermine and marginalize it to
eliminate one of the last two obstacles to
implementing Israel's agenda in Lebanon.
If the army is weakened, it can not protect _over
70% of the Christians in Lebanon who support
General Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement. The
F.P.M. is mainly constituted of well educated,
middle class and unarmed Lebanese civilians. The
only protection they have is the Lebanese Army
which aids in maintaining their presence in the
political scene. The other type of Christians in
Lebanon is the minority, about 15% of Christians
associated with Geagea's Lebanese Forces who are
purely militia. If the Club can weaken the Army
even more than it is, then this Phalange minority
will be the only relatively strong force on the
Christian scene and become the "army" of the Club.
Another reason the Club wants to weaken the
Lebanese Army is that the Army is nationalistic
and is a safety valve for Lebanon to ensure the
Palestinian right of return to Palestine,
Lebanese nationhood and the resistance culture
led by Hezbollah, with which is has excellent relations.
For their part, the Welch Club wants to keep some
Palestinians in Lebanon for cheap labor, ship
others to countries willing to take them (and be
paid handsomely to do so by American taxpayers)
and allow at most a few thousand to return to
Palestine to settle the 'right of return' issue
while at the same time signing a May 17th 1983
type treaty with Israel with enriches the Club
members and gives Israel Lebanon's water and much of Lebanon's sovereignty.
Long story short, Fatah el-Islam must be silenced
at all costs. Their tale, if told, is poison for
the Club and its sponsors. We will likely see
their attempted destruction in the coming days.
Hezbollah is watching and supporting the Lebanese army.
Franklin Lamb's recent book, The Price We Pay: A
Quarter Century of Israel's use of American
Weapon's against Lebanon (1978-2006) is available
at Amazon.com.uk. Hezbollah: A Brief Guide for
Beginners is expected in early summer.
Dr. Lamb can be reached at <mailto:fplamb at gmail.com>fplamb at gmail.com.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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