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Refugees from Tfail shunned after fleeing onslaught

File - Lebanese soldiers drive in Ras al-Harf, in a convoy heading to the village of Tfail, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh)

BEIRUT: Omar arrived in the border town of Arsal in the northeastern Bekaa Valley Wednesday with his four children in tow. Like more than 50,000 Syrian refugees who have settled in the town, Omar fled his home under heavy shelling from Syrian regime forces. Omar, however, is a Lebanese citizen, born and raised in the Lebanese village of Tfail.

The predominantly Sunni village of Tfail is located on a piece of Lebanese territory that is surrounded on three sides by Syria. After heavy shelling over the past week, some 20 families fled Tfail for the relative safety of Arsal, 35 kilometers north.

The displaced Lebanese, however, say they received no aid or support in Arsal.

“My family is sleeping near a tree. We’re looking for a room to rent, but each room costs between $600 and $700, and we cannot afford it,” he said.

Sabah, also from Tfail, said their situation in Arsal had grown dire.

“I have six children,” she told The Daily Star. “No one has come to help us. We left with the clothes on our backs and nothing else. We have no food, no water.”

Some of the families have tried to find shelter and aid from Syrian refugee camps, but were denied help.

Others, however, are still in the village, unable or unwilling to leave.

A Syrian man named Abdo, who said he had lived in Tfail for the past 40 years, estimated that there were approximately 300 people left in Tfail, split equally between Syrians and Lebanese.

Women and children are among those who remain in the village.

Hezbollah and the Syrian army have bombarded the Lebanese village in recent weeks. Tfail, which is wholly cut off from the Lebanese interior, is considered to be sympathetic to the Syrian opposition, and fighters have established themselves in the town and its environs.

Videos taken by a Syrian man who recently fled Tfail show shells shot in rapid fire landing close to structures in the agricultural town. A Beirut-based Lebanese aid worker who was recently in Tfail said the video appeared to be authentic.

As the shells continue to fall, some of those remaining in the village are preparing for battle. Abdo said that if either the Syrian regime or Hezbollah entered Tfail, villagers would take up arms. “There will be war,” he said. – Additional reporting by Justin Salhani

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 21, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

Omar arrived in the border town of Arsal in the northeastern Bekaa Valley Wednesday with his four children in tow. Like more than 50,000 Syrian refugees who have settled in the town, Omar fled his home under heavy shelling from Syrian regime forces. Omar, however, is a Lebanese citizen, born and raised in the Lebanese village of Tfail.

The predominantly Sunni village of Tfail is located on a piece of Lebanese territory that is surrounded on three sides by Syria. After heavy shelling over the past week, some 20 families fled Tfail for the relative safety of Arsal, 35 kilometers north.


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