Monday, September 10, 2007

Palestinian Refugee Camps aren't going all Gush Katif

Even in Lebanon, no one quite does refugee camp like the Palestinians. The Jerusalem Post reports:
The Lebanese government said Monday it would cost $382.5 million to rebuild a Palestinian refugee camp shattered by the summer's fighting between the army and al-Qaida-inspired Islamic militants, and appealed to the international community to help.

The UN relief agency, meanwhile, appealed for $55 million in emergency funding. The appeal came at a donors' conference in Beirut that Lebanon called to seek international help to rebuild the Nahr el-Bared camp in the country's north, and allow over 30,000 of its residents to return.

(…)A government estimate said the $55 million was needed for emergency relief for the camp, and further $28.5 for nearby Lebanese communities affected by the fighting. It also said $249 million would be needed to rebuild the camp and $50 million for reconstruction in surrounding Lebanese towns.

The battles broke out May 20 between militants of the Fatah Islam group holed up in Nahr el-Bared camp, just outside the port city of Tripoli, and Lebanese troops surrounding it. It was the worst internal violence since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

The prolonged battles, which ended Sept. 2 with the collapse of Fatah Islam and the army's takeover of the nearly totally destroyed camp, left 164 soldiers dead and dozens of militants killed. Abbas Zaki, the Palestinian representative to Lebanon, said at the gathering that Nahr el-Bared fighting also claimed the lives of 47 Palestinian civilians. About 310 others were injured. Groups such as "Fatah Islam should no longer find safe havens and fertile grounds in the refugee camps," Saniora said.

Karen Koning AbuZayd, the UN agency's commissioner-general, told the conference that the appeal includes the funding requirements for the critical needs of 5,449 affected families from Nahr el-Bared and areas adjacent to the camp in northern Lebanon. The UN agency will provide temporary shelter, assist in rent payments by refugees, provide prefabricated homes and support to host families, as well as health care and education for the coming year, AbuZayd said.

The United States promised $10 million in assistance, in addition to $3.5 million pledged in June, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman told the conference. Germany said it had contributed the equivalent of $5.5 million recently and was willing to look into other contributions. Italy said it expects to contribute the equivalent of $2.74 million while Norway pledged US$1.7 million. The European Union, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Canada also said they would help but did not provide any figures.

$382. million to re-build a “refugee camp”. Well, I’d say that’s some tents. The UNWRA should be invoking the Pottery Barn rule on the Lebanese government. And if the Lebanese government baulks at paying the piper for their army’s bill of incompetence – they can always send the tab to Syria.

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