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UN agency helps relocate 25,000 refugees from camp violence in Lebanon

UN agency helps relocate 25,000 refugees from camp violence in Lebanon

Nahr el-Bared refugee camp
United Nations aid workers operating at the Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon that has been the scene of deadly clashes this week have now registered and relocated 25,000 people away from the fighting, the UN agency caring for them reported today.

Most of the newly displaced people have found refuge in Beddawi camp in the area around Tripoli, close to the Nahr el-Bared camp where Lebanese armed forces have been fighting Fatah el-Islam gunmen since Sunday. About 2,500 are living in schools or women’s centres made available by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

About a third of all houses in Nahr el-Bared were destroyed or badly damaged during the violence this week, according to UNRWA staff living in the camp.

The Agency said a definitive casualty count and damage assessment is still being compiled, but eyewitnesses interviewed by staff spoke of several dozen deaths, with two mass graves reportedly dug in the camp to dispose of the bodies.

UNRWA spokesperson Matthias Burchard told reporters in Geneva today that the situation inside the camp was again calm but tense after several hours of clashes between the two sides broke an earlier calm.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd is heading from New York to Beirut to oversee the Agency’s emergency operation.

Before the fighting began Nahr el-Bared housed about 31,000 people, including some 8,000 classified by UNRWA as special hardship cases.

UNRWA is continuing to provide emergency food supplies, water, sanitation supplies, hygiene kits and sleeping bags to those civilians still inside Nahr el-Bared, as well as to those who have fled the fighting.

The agency is now preparing an emergency appeal to cover the estimated needs for the next 30 days.