- Created: Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:18
- Written by Manal Darwish
FRFI 197 June / July 2007
The days since 19 May have seen the Lebanese army ruthlessly pound the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr Al Bared outside Tripoli in an effort to destroy Fatah Al Islam, a group that is linked to Al Qaida. The Lebanese government blames the organisation for two bus bombings in a Christian area outside Beirut last February. The death toll of the clashes is at least 79, including many civilians, but the actual toll may be higher as there are no accurate figures for causalities inside the camp.
Palestinian factions inside and outside Lebanon have condemned Fatah Al Islam. Lebanese representative of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Abbas Zaki said: ‘Palestinians ought not to be drawn into the matter because they, as much as the Lebanese, consider Fatah Al Islam a dangerous terrorist group that threatens their safety’. Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal called Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora on 22 May to urge him to ‘protect Palestinian as well as Lebanese souls’ inside the Nahr Al Bared camp. It is possible that sections of the Siniora government have deliberately provoked the confrontation. The previous week Siniora had called on the UN to set up the Hariri tribunal, which is opposed by the mass of the people as an attack on Lebanese sovereignty. Both President Emile Lahoud and parliament, whose approval is required, are against the measure. The tribunal would be the first international jurisdiction established exclusively with the task of enforcing a national law.
On 20 May 2007 Hizbullah condemned any attack by any group on the Lebanese army as an attempt to destabilise Lebanon: ‘We are sensing an attempt to drag the Lebanese army into this bloody conflict that might not end easily...We are also hearing calls for further escalation and fighting, which would ultimately lead to more chaos and to a generalisation of conflicts in Lebanon.’
The Bush administration immediately backed the Siniora government. But as US journalist Seymour Hersh revealed on 5 March 2007 in The New Yorker, the US has been ‘pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority’ for covert operations in the Middle East where it wants to stop the spread of ‘Shi’ite influence’, writing that ‘in Lebanon the administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hizbullah’. Hersh also revealed that ‘the Siniora government and its allies allowed some of the aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hizbullah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaida’