United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Palestinians in Iraq: More fleeing

Another 50 Palestinians have fled to the Iraq-Syrian border following a traumatic week in Baghdad, bringing the total number stranded at the frontier to about 700. The 50 made the hazardous journey from Baghdad to the border four days after 73 Palestinians traveled the same road following the temporary detentions of 30 Palestinian men by militia in the capital last Tuesday. UNHCR also received information that two buses carrying some 75 Palestinians left Baghdad Monday morning, but at least one of them was unable to make it to the border. The bus was reportedly forced to return to Baghad because roads were blocked by crowds during the religious celebrations for Muharram. 

Increasing numbers of Palestinians leaving Baghdad

The number of Palestinians stuck on the Iraq-Syria border after fleeing violence in Baghdad has risen to 80, with more reported on the way. Last weekend, an additional 39 Palestinians left Baghdad for the border with Syria, where an earlier group of 41, including 19 children, has been stuck just inside Iraq since Dec. 16. UNHCR received reports over the weekend that the security situation for Palestinians in Baghdad had grown worse over the past week and that more were on the way to the border. Members of the Mahdi army were reported in Palestinian areas in eastern Baghdad, attempting to take over apartments to assert control in the mainly Shia area. 

More Palestinians arrive at Iraq-Syria border after fleeing Baghdad

More Palestinians have arrived at the Iraq-Syria border after fleeing Baghdad to escape increasing violence, harassment and targeted killings. The latest group, 41 in all, has been stranded on the Iraqi side of the border with Syria since last Saturday. Iraqi border authorities initially refused to allow them to leave Iraq, citing a lack of proper documentation. Some members of the group do not have any travel documents, while others are holding expired ones – all as a result of suspension until further notice by the Iraqi authorities of renewals or issuance of residence permits. 

UN human rights expert calls for urgent action on Gaza

On 25 June 2006 Israel embarked on a military operation in Gaza that has resulted in over 300 deaths, including many civilians; over a thousand injuries; large-scale devastation of public facilities and private homes; the destruction of agricultural lands; the disruption of hospitals, clinics and schools; the denial of access to adequate electricity, water and food; and the occupation and imprisonment of the people of Gaza. This brutal collective punishment of a people, not a government, has passed largely unnoticed by the international community. The Quartet, comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the Russian Federation, has done little to halt Israel’s attacks. 

UNHCR alarmed by increased violence against Palestinians in Iraq

A mortar attack last night in Baghdad’s Palestinian neighbourhood of Al Baladiya which left four Palestinians dead, a dozen wounded and many displaced is an alarming escalation of the violence engulfing this vulnerable community and may force others to flee, according to the UN refugee agency. Initial reports received by UNHCR said shelling began in the Baladiyat Palestinian area about 8:30 p.m. and lasted for about half an hour. UNHCR Baghdad staff began receiving phone calls from the terrified Palestinians almost immediately. They said at least a dozen were wounded, some of them children and women and some of them seriously. 

Hardy souls return to clean up the mess in southern Lebanon

Haddatha is a mess. Located close to Lebanon’s border with Israel, the village was heavily damaged during the five-week conflict that ravaged the eastern Mediterranean country this summer. The village centre is unrecognisable, with a mosque, shops and about 100 houses reduced to rubble. Some families have returned to rebuild their homes, but with winter approaching and their rural livelihoods destroyed others of Haddatha’s displaced inhabitants whose homes were ruined are staying away. One of the returnees, Mustafa Nasser sits in what is left of his family’s living room. 

Reaching out to worried families in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Local and international attention has focused on rebuilding southern Lebanon and parts of Beirut since the end of Israel’s military incursion, but this area in the north was also badly hit during the summer conflict. Israeli air strikes caused substantial damage to houses, farmland, industrial plants and infrastructure, while thousands of traumatised and scared civilians fled from the Bekaa Valley to neighbouring Syria. They started flooding back across the border right after the August 14 ceasefire was announced, but many returned to scenes of devastation in their home areas. 

UNHCR deeply concerned by plight of Palestinian refugees in Iraq

UNHCR is deeply concerned over the well-being of Palestinian refugees inside Iraq, as well as those who fled targeted harassment and violence in Baghdad and are now stuck at the border between Iraq and Syria and in camps in Jordan and Syria. The security situation of Palestinian refugees in Iraq has deteriorated – particularly since the Samarra bombings last February – and an increasing number of them have left or are trying to leave the country. Palestinians in Iraq lack protection, have serious problems obtaining identity cards, and have been the target of continuing harassment, threats, kidnapping and killings. 

UNHCR links with social development centres to help Lebanese IDPs

World attention may have shifted away from Lebanon, but many people continue to suffer from the recent conflict - including hundreds of displaced people in Beirut’s crowded Hai Al Sullam area. Before the five-week war, the southern suburb’s 275,000 permanent residents - mostly Shia Muslims and poor - lived cheek by jowl with migrants and Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers. They have since been joined by hundreds of displaced Lebanese, whose houses in neighbouring districts were destroyed by Israeli fire or who fled from the south to stay with families in the capital until it is safe to return. Uncertainty among the internally displaced people (IDPs) is high. 

Lebanese struggle to repair far wider damage than destroyed houses

From a distance, the lack of obvious destruction lends a deceptive look of normality to towns like Marjayoun. Look closer and you discover that interiors of houses have been wrecked, services like electricity are non-existent, rotting rubbish lies uncollected and the fields cannot be entered because of unexploded munitions. “What we had here was a tsunami. That is the only way to explain it,” said the mayor of Marjayoun, Fouad Hamra. A convoy of 3,000 fleeing inhabitants came under air attack as they tried to leave on August 11. “The problem is that since there are few destroyed houses, people think that we have not been that much affected by the war.”