BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Palestinian refugee camps bury Nakba martyrs

SIDON, Lebanon: Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps declared Monday a day of mourning, as Palestinians laid to rest six of the 11 refugees killed Sunday when Israeli forces opened fire on protesters who had marched to the Lebanese-Israeli border to mark the 63rd anniversary of the “Nakba.”

Inside Ain al-Hilweh, the country’s largest refugee camp, angry crowds rallied in condemnation of the “Israeli massacre,” vowing to “follow in the martyrs’ footsteps to liberate Palestine” and guarantee Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

“Be ready. Imad was always ready for martyrdom,” read a poster during the funeral of Imad Abu Shakra, who was killed Sunday.

Abu Shakra’s younger brother Mohammad vowed to “die a martyr” like his brother. “My brother died for Palestine. Why did you prevent me from going with you?” Mohammad asked.

Amid a general strike in the camp, men, women and children gathered in the streets to hail the dead, some firing automatic rifles in the air while others wept for the victims.

Um Obeida, who had been standing alongside Abu Shakra at the time of his death, said Israeli troops first shot him when he planted a flag on the border fence and another bullet struck him, killing him, shortly after he yelled, “We sacrifice ourselves for Palestine.”

Other angry protesters, who took part in the funeral services of Abu Shakra, Abdel-Rahman Sobhi and Mohammad Abu Shlih, two other residents of the camp who were shot at the border, blamed the massacre on Arab regimes collaborating with Israel.

“Arab kings lack the initiative. I vow to you, my son, that we will be martyrs on Palestinian territories rather than on the border, after we confront traitor regimes, we will liberate Palestine,” Sobhi’s father, Said, shouted.

“To Palestine, we march in millions … the people want to liberate Palestine,” crowds chanted, as they urged President Michel Sleiman to open the Lebanese-Israeli border for Palestinian militants.

Sleiman called Monday on the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and put pressure on Israel to comply with international laws and U.N. charters, and condemned “Israeli criminal acts against civilians,” during a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly.

A security source told The Daily Star that Israeli troops closely examined Monday the barbed wire fence separating the Lebanese-Israeli border to check for any breaches or damage.

UNIFIL deputy spokesperson Andrea Tenenti confirmed that the force had begun an investigation into Sunday’s incident, which also left more than 100 protesters wounded.

“At the moment, we have started an investigation to ascertain the facts. For most of the issues, we can only talk about them after the investigation is completed. It was a tragic incident,” Tenenti told The Daily Star.

“The Lebanese Army was in charge of the situation and responsible for law and order in the area, as they always are. UNIFIL worked with them and we were in regular contact with them throughout the day,” he added.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the fight against Israel would continue until victory was achieved, praising the courage of Palestinian protesters who faced Israeli gunfire.Before Palestinian factions decided to restrict funeral services to inside Ain al-Hilweh, leftist groups and Popular Nasserite Movement leader and former Sidon MP Osama Saad, who participated in the event, had called for the organization of a rally from Sidon’s main square.

Representatives of the Future Movement, Hezbollah and Sidon MP Bahia Hariri also took part in funeral services, which were attended by Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Abdullah Abdullah.

Abdullah urged the international community to support the Palestinian cause as the Arab people rally in support of the Palestinian people.

“We promise the martyrs will continue on the same path until Palestine is liberated. Until then, the uprising will not stop,” Abdullah added.

In a separate funeral at Al-Bus camp in Tyre, Mahmoud Mohammad Salem was laid to rest as angry residents fired automatic guns in the air. Funeral services were also held for Mohammad Samir Fandi in the Burj al-Shemali camp in the suburbs of Tyre.

The victims were killed on the Lebanese side of the border with Israel Sunday, when hundreds of Palestinian refugees pelted Israeli troops with stones near the village of Maroun al-Ras, in the southeastern part of the country.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 17, 2011, on page 1.

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