Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Once Beirut’s only public space, al Sanayeh Park has been transformed in the last week into a refugee camp. With thousands of Lebanese fleeing the south and the capital’s southern suburbs, as Israel continues its attacks, desperate families have sought refuge amongst the trees of al Sanayeh, in western Beirut.
They came with little or no belongings but laden with sadness and grief. Some had lost loved ones others their homes. Many sat in silence, too shocked to tell what they had seen.
From the Harat Hreik neighborhood, in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh, Umm Ali Badreddine fled to a public school. “I feel as if I’m suffocating. We have no food and no water or place to sleep. I had 65 dollars at home but left it behind when we ran away. Today, I have nothing. The only food I give to my children is from donations,” she said bitterly.
Al Sanayeh on Tuesday was crowded with some 300 refugees and volunteers who have created the “Civil Relief Committee- al Sanayeh”, which includes 400 members. With little funds, members were working around the clock to try to help those in dire need and distribute food and water. “We only have basic provisions, such as water and some bread and essential medicines. We lack necessary medicines for those with heart problems or other health conditions that require constant care,” said Sharif Bibi, one of the volunteers.
“We urgently need milk for children and medicines. There is an acute shortage of blankets and mattresses. Many refugees are sleeping on the ground,” he added.
Families have also sough refuge in 21 public schools in the area. More are expected to come in the next few days, as Israel’s bombardment intensifies. “We don’t know where to take them to. We are depending on donations from individuals and private institutions. The Lebanese have put all their disagreements behind them and are heading to al Sanayeh to assist with the relief effort,” Bibi said.
For her part, Farah Kobeissi, another volunteer said, “We are depending on our personal initiative and not the Higher Relief Committee. At times, we call on the Red Cross.”
“The war has untied us all instead of dividing us. Everyone is assisting with the relief effort but our capabilities are limited and the needs are immense and increasing by the day”, said Gaith Badreddin, a volunteer in the public park.
Standing by the entrance, Khalil Homayyed still does not know the fate of his family in the city of Mais al Jabal in southern Lebanon. “I beg every institution and official to bring my wife and 7 year old son to Beirut.”