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Libya's Palestinian Refugees and the current crisis

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(Part I of II)

As Tripoli's Palestinian Refugees awakened the morning of 11/17/1l, like the rest of us here, they saw in the western sky over the Mediterranean a vast swatch of black stratocumulus clouds of acrid smoke from last night's NATO bombing.

This latest attack, in the Ain Zara and Tajoura districts in the eastern suburbs of Tripoli killed three more civilians, increasing the more than 1,100 total civilian deaths by NATO, according to Libyan Ministry of Health statistics. This latest attack is believed to have employed four US MK-83, 1000 lb. guided bombs and four US Hellfire missiles.

On 6/23/11, the Abdullah Muhammad Ash-Shihab Palestinian refugee family of four which included Abdullah, his wife Karime and his six-month-old twins Khalid and Juanah were among civilians killed in a NATO bombing attack. The family had lived in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, Syria but came here seeking Libya's well known security and quiet life.

Tripoli's humid air is still pungent with the smell of cordite. Many Palestinians, like the increasingly defiant population of Western Libya, view the bombing and killing of yet more civilians as NATO's answer to "Baba" (father) Qaddafi's resistance broadcast Friday night on state-run Libyan TV, just three hours after the decisions made by the 30 member Contact Group at Istanbul were announced. The Istanbul assembly, claiming authority from UNSC resolutions 1979 and 1973, to "protect the civilian population" granted additional diplomatic recognition and funds to the anti-Qaddafi National Transition Council (NTC).

Five months ago, when the events of February 17, 2011 erupted in Benghazi near the eastern shore of the Gulf of Sidra, this country's nearly 75,000 Palestinian refugees who are dispersed all over the country, were as shocked as most Libyans and foreigners here. Virtually every Palestinian interviewed for this report mentioned that they saw no advance signs that the normal domestic tranquility would be suddenly shattered.

Palestinian Refugees

Some of the thousands of Palestinians who came here from Lebanon to escape the civil war, the post Sabra-Shatila Massacre reign of terror with which they were targeted from the US and Israel supported Amin Gemayel government, and it's the Deuxieme Bureau (Lebanese Army Intelligence Force), asked the Beirut new Lebanese-Palestinian Coordination Commission to urgently intervene with the Lebanese government to let them depart Libya aboard ships and return to Lebanon. They received no assistance or even a reply.

When the violence continued and then started to spread rapidly, Palestinians from Lebanese camps appealed to president Michel Suleiman and the Palestine Embassy in Tripoli, Libya (there is no Lebanese Embassy in Libya because of the August 31,1978 "disappearance" of the Lebanese Shia leader, Imam Musa Sadr) to help them leave this country. Nearly one million others quickly departed, including thousands of foreign workers, among them 20,000 of the 30,000 Chinese based here who have been busy in Libya in all manner of commercial ventures.

This, to the growing consternation of some of the NATO countries and certainly the French who withdrew from NATO in 1966 on the initiative of President Charles De Gaulle, only to have President Nickolas Sarkozy return France with full membership in the military alliance. France is angry because they blame Qaddafi first and China second for their loss of most of their commercial relations in Africa even among their former colonies. President Sarkozy has made plain that France intends to benefit with oil contracts once NATO succeeds and a new more friendly government is installed.

The published Palestinian refugee appeal read: "We the Palestinians living in Libya, some for more than 35 years have come from Lebanon to flee (civil) war and resided among our brothers in Libya where we got married and worked. However, after the 17 February insurrection and the worsening security situation, we are trying to leave the country via its ports but were not allowed because of inadequate travel documents. We are now stranded and sell our belongings to eat; we do not have work or shelter and do not know what to do or where to go."

Not even a reply to this request has been received five months later. This silence comes as no surprise given Lebanon's deeply ingrained hostility toward its remaining 270,000 Palestinians, roughly half of whom remain trapped in 12 squalid camps, and not one of whom is granted even the basic internationally mandated right to work or to own a home.

Umm Mohammed, a 70-year-old woman, who is from the Maghazi area in central Gaza Strip spent days sitting in front of her tent near the border crossing at Salloum at the Libyan-Egyptian border, hoping to return to Gaza after she fled fighting between security battalions loyal to Muammar Gaddafi and the Libyan rebels in the Albayda'a area. She commented, "I do not know how to express displacement and disaster I and my family have experienced for the past sixty years."

Rami Diab, a 67-year-old Palestinian refugee who was born in the Zionist occupied city of Ashkelon, also hopes to return to the Gaza Strip to save his family from war raging in Libya. "I left my family home in Benghazi and headed to the crossing of Salloum to try to take refuge in the Gaza Strip. But we did not have permission to enter Egypt."

Entry Denied to Egypt

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)

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