Al Rashidiya, Lebanon – As the southern city of Tyre continues to bear the brunt of Israeli attacks on Lebanon and thousands flee the relentless Israeli barrage of missiles and mortars, the nearby Al Rashidiyah Palestinian refugee camp seemed to be an oasis of calm, when Asharq Al Awsat visited on Friday.
As we made our way into the sprawling camp, we were greeted by a giant poster of former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, followed by a series of pictures and slogans praising the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and their continued resistance.
Only 15km north of the border, Al Rashidiyah is home to an estimated 17 thousand Palestinian refugees, a thousand of whom fled the current wave of violence. Sultan Abou al Aynayn, the Fatah commander said, “Life in the camp isn’t normal. Everyone is following the news. Bombing is expected at any time. So far, we have welcomed 120 displaced Lebanese families and 85 families are now living in the local school. We have tried to offer them what they need. We gave them bread, detergents, milk and clothes.”
“The road was being hit and bombs were falling all around us. The only place where we could take refuge was the camp. We are treated well and the camp’s authorities have assisted us. Our sleeping arrangements are good but we are finding it difficult to obtain milk for the children. My cousins in schools outside the camp aren’t treated as well,” said Zahra, from the village of Deir Qanun.
For his part, Mohammed from the southern village of al Haniya, described his situation as “a tragicomedy. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s strange, for the first time I feel that the Lebanese and Palestinians are one people. They welcomed us and have treated us very well. We feel closer to [the people in the camp] than ever before. They’ve lived close to us since 1948 but we don’t know them. Tragedy unites people.”
Zeinab, aged 7, with her parents and sisters escaped to her grandfather’s house. But when the bombing intensified, they all sought refuge in Al Rashidiyah. Palestinians, she said, “are refugees like us, but from a long time ago. This is what my grandmother told me.”