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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Bombed Out Family Camps at School

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | September 12th, 2007 | Comments No Comments

As we drove slowly over the hill along Lebanon’s main highway toward Syria, the concrete city rose in the distance from the surrounding lush green orange trees like Oz from the poppy fields. Ghostly quiet, these concrete homes were abandoned now, the top floors demolished, destroyed from horizon to horizon. Smoke twisted eerily toward the sky and a Lebanese flag perched at the top of the highest rubble mound, like a victor’s foot on the throat of its fallen opponent.

Since June, when the Lebanese Army began bombing Nahr el-Bared, the 31,000 families who called Lebanon’s oldest refugee camp home, fled. More than half trudged to nearby Beddawi, another of the 12 Palestinian refugee camps whose electricity, water, sewage, trash and medical services only anemically served its own residents. Within a meager few weeks, Beddawi’s overcrowded population nearly doubled from 16,000 people to 29,000.
Abdullah Ali Awad
Abdullah Ali AwadFamilies live in 12 x 9 foot areas in the elementary school, their space cordoned off by blue tarps and blankets hung precariously from the ceiling. Or they live in storefronts that have shut down to provide emergency housing. Some live with relatives or friends, cramming into every nook and cranny.

Abdullah Ali Awad and his wife, daughter, son and 3 young grandchildren have set up home in the Kawah Elementary Coed School’s lobby at the base of a winding staircase that children screamed down toward summer freedom in better days.

Canned goods line the window sills, a water jug takes up one corner, a bare light bulb barely lights the dark space. Privacy is created by dark blankets strung from the ceiling. A mediocre fan attempts to circulate the stiflingly hot air.

“Our house in Nahr el-Bared had 2 floors,” said Ali Awad, still incredulous that his family is living this way after evacuating during the first onslaught of bombing 3 months ago. “We lost everything. Our house was completely destroyed by a bomb.”

Families want to return to their community to begin rebuilding before the winter, when temperatures can drop to 40º. But, they are at the mercy of the Lebanese Army, and, currently, the Lebanese government refuses to allow refugees to return.

Driving toward Nahr el-Bared, we were told we would not be able to stop by the side of the road and that photos were forbidden: Soldiers were arresting photographers. Indeed, as we crested the hill with Nahr el-Bared off to our left, soldiers in imposing tanks lined the street, guns trained at passing traffic.

Nahr el-Bared is strategically located just north of the country’s oil refineries, and across the Mediterranean Sea from Syria. Through the bullet-porous buildings, we could see Syria’s skyline in the distance.

Rumors are floating around DC and Beirut that the US military wants to put a base at Nahr el-Bared. If they’re true, 31,000 children, women and men may have permanently lost their homes, their communities, and their histories.

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