Lebanese army fires on nonviolent demonstration, kills two

Today, during the second day of a three-day peaceful protest in the Palestinian refugee camp of Baddawi in solidarity with Palestinian refugees from Nahr al-Bared, the Lebanese army opened fire on the protesters in Baddawi refugee camp, killing two people and injuring 25, seven critically.

A peaceful protest began within the Baddawi Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon. The protesters had signs reading “Nahr al-Bared is in our soul” and “Nahr al-Bared, we won’t forget you.” The protesters were calling for an end to the violence.

Energetic male youth continued the protest outside the camp, against the wishes and attempts of the organizers.

As they proceeded towards the Lebanese army’s checkpoint, the army issued verbal warnings, telling the protesters to stay away. At this point, women and children raced to the front to try to prevent the army from firing upon the crowd. The Lebanese army shot two warning shots into the air and then immediately responded with machine gun fire at the crowd of approximately 300 peaceful protesters. The army continued firing on people as they were attempting to retrieve the wounded.

Caoimhe Butterly, an activist and organizer, reported on what she had personally witnessed. “The army first opened fire with two to three minutes of sustained fire. When there was a lull in the shooting, we rushed in with our hands above our heads. At this stage, the army started firing on the road again. Thus, people retrieving the wounded were wounded.”

In response to the Lebanese army’s claim that a “significant number” of the protesters had clubs, Butterly said, “the protesters did not have clubs. Nobody had clubs. We saw the whole demonstration. They weren’t carrying anything. We went from the beginning to the end of the demonstration. We saw it all, and no one was carrying clubs.”

Furthermore, she continued, “the protest was never out of hand. They weren’t throwing stones. At the time the army opened fire, women were sitting on the ground at the front, and a number of people even had their backs to the soldiers. At the time the army opened fire, people were getting quieter and had stopped shouting, as if shouting is enough to legitimize open fire.”

In response to the Lebanese army’s claim that the protesters were 10 meters away from the checkpoint, Butterly said, “We were at a distance where we couldn’t distinguish their faces; we could only distinguish their figures. We were possibly at a distance of a few hundred meters, and definitely not 10 meters. We were far away from the checkpoint.”

Two civilians were killed, and 35 wounded, including five women, one elderly sheikh, and seven children below the age of 15 — including one three-year-old child. Seven of the wounded are critically wounded, having been shot above the waist.

The protest was held in a response to the ongoing siege of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in an attempt to highlight the worsening humanitarian situation and indiscriminate shelling endured by the up to 3,000 civilians still remaining in the camp. The protest began yesterday by initiating a three-day water-only symbolic hunger strike in solidarity with family and friends in Nahr al-Bared who are presently experiencing the hunger, fear and vulnerability of facing a second month under siege. The protest included a silent procession and die-in to highlight the to-date 36 civilian casualties earlier this afternoon and an open mike and opportunity for the press to interview people throughout the day who have recently evacuated Nahr al-Bared.

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