Lebanese soldiers have opened fire on a demonstration of Palestinian refugees in the Beddawi camp near Tripoli in northern Lebanon, killing at least two people and wounding dozens more.
Palestinian rights campaigner Caoimhe Butterly was an eyewitness to the shooting. "There was a big demonstration through the Beddawi refugee camp today," she told Socialist Worker by telephone.
"At 1:40pm local time a group of about 200 young men broke away from the main section of the march and headed towards the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, which has been under siege by Lebanese army in their battle with Islamist militants.
"The men pushed passed local Palestinian security guards on the outskirts of Beddawi and proceeded towards the Lebanese army checkpoint.
"A group of women and children, including myself, rushed to attempt to stop the young men from marching on the checkpoint. We were trying to de-escalate a dangerous situation. By this time the crowd had grown to around 400 people.
"As they appproached the army checkpoint, Lebanese soldiers fired several volleys of warning shots into the air.
"At this point the demonstration halted, and a group of women rushed to the front and sat in the road to block the young men from marching any further.
"The women were joined by representatives of Palestinian political parties who began negotiations to end the confrontation and persuade the young men to rejoin the main demonstration inside the Beddawi camp.
"The negotiations had calmed tempers and there were no incidents of provocation – neither shouts, taunts nor stones were thrown."
"It was during this period that the soldiers suddenly fired two to three minutes of sustained automatic fire directly into the crowd.
"Many of us took refuge in the alleyways and shops off the main road. When the firing stopped, a group of us returned into the main road to help the wounded.
"We raised our hands above our heads. One of our group raised a piece of white cloth – I believe it was a shirt – to indicate we were unarmed. The soldiers shot her in the thigh.
"Ambulances began to appear to ferry away the wounded. During this time a group of around 20 Lebanese men appeared and began to attack the survivors with fists and knives. One activist who had been keeping a video record of events was severely beaten and stabbed.
"From first reports, five women are among the wounded, seven demonstrators are in a critical state and seven children were hit by bullets or fragments that ricocheted from the road, among them a three year old girl.
"Two men were killed – one 50 year old, the other in his 20s to 30s. Many of the wounded were hit in the legs and thighs. Others were hit in the stomach and back. We will be compiling witness statements."
from Socialist Worker