Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lebanon updates

A few updates on the ongoing siege of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon: there's a solidarity statement translated into English on Angry Arab that's well worth reading, while Ghassan Makarem writes in Socialist Worker on what's behind the siege and its political impact in Lebanon.

Ghassan includes this snippet about the "bank raid" that kicked it all off, which I don't believe has appeared elsewhere in the (generally pisspoor) media coverage:

When Fatah al-Islam first appeared, they declared themselves to be in opposition to the "Shia Muslim expansion". From the onset they said they did not want any confrontation with the army and sided with the government over its opposition to Hizbollah and Iran.

However, after encouraging and sponsoring the group, the Future Movement turned its back on them. According to Fatah al-Islam, the current crisis began when the group went to the bank to collect their "wages". They were informed that the money had been frozen – so they robbed the bank.

This provided a pretext for the police to raid an apartment in the upmarket area of the city used by the group. After a fierce battle with the police, Fatah al-Islam attacked Lebanese soldiers in their barracks. The army responded by shelling any location inside the refugee camp without mercy – just as Israel had done to the Lebanese last summer.

There's also an absolute must-read eyewitness account of a solidarity mission to the northern camps over at Banana Republic, complete with some extraordinary photos, including a banner listing the confirmed Palestinian dead (the only attempt I've seen to count this figure).

Some of EDB's snaps display wicked flashes of surrealism - a table canopy that resembles a stealth bomber, or the refugee boy with rather outré taste in footwear...

A little girl and her friends came over to tell us that "their" camp is much nicer than this one, as if to apologize for a messy house to unexpected visitors. "My camp is beautiful. Not like this," she said, waving her hand dismissively at her surroundings.

Anyway, read it all here.