Palestinian Refugee Camp Sabra and Chatila Gets Influx of Syrian Refugees

Palestinian refugee camps taking in thousands fleeing Syria, including 5,000 Palestinians, NYT reports.

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A Palestinian woman screams at a Swedish UN officer in September, 1982 in the Sabra PLO Camp in Beirut, Lebanon.Credit: AP

Sabra and Chatila, the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut known for the massacre of some 600 men, women and children during the First Lebanon War, is now home to a new wave of refugees – those escaping the civil war in Syria.

The influx of Syrian refugees has doubled the population of the camps to 40,000, aid workers told the New York Times. The veteran residents are refugees from the 1948 Israeli-Arab war who fled what became Israel, and among the newcomers are about 5,000 Palestinians who lived as refugees in Syria, according to the Times.

These refugees, among the one million or so people who have fled Syria for Lebanon, are reshaping not just the camps, but also other parts of Lebanon.

Syrian refugees are opening businesses in Sabra and other areas nearby, while veteran residents are building new floors in their apartment buildings to accommodate the new arrivals, the Times reports.

According to the report, the Syrian refugees have received a warmer welcome in Sabra and Chatila than they have in other parts of Lebanon, where curfews are imposed. Palestinians there even founded an aid group to help the refugees along with camp residents.

The two groups also bond over stories of displacement and over the perception in Lebanon that they pose a threat to the country.

In 1982, Christian Phalangist militiamen killed about 600 Palestinian men, women and children in revenge for the assassination of their leader, Bashir Gemayal, during the Lebanon War. The Israeli army was in control of the area and Israel was widely blamed for allowing the Phalangists into the camps.

A commission investigating the massacre found then Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon indirectly responsible for ignoring the threat to the Palestinian refugees.

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