BAALBEK, Lebanon: Residents of two Baalbek villages were enraged Sunday, as news spread that a group of Syrian refugees had allegedly attempted to sexually assault a local man. Security forces said Syrian refugees residing in a tented community near the Baalbek village of Qsarnaba lured a mentally disabled man, 28, from the Dirani family, to their tent Saturday night, where they allegedly tried to sexually assault him.
News of the alleged assault provoked dozens of residents to attack the tented community. Some burned tents while others physically attacked occupants. An Army unit arrived at the scene and kept residents away from the tented community. The Army arrested a number of Syrians who had allegedly assaulted the Dirani man. Others had fled the scene.
The Army and the Syrian refugees agreed to dismantle the tented community and leave the area.
Subsequently, in the neighboring village of Temnin, residents asked that another tented community, located in a nearby plain, be dismantled as well.
To protest the Qsarnaba incident, residents blocked the streets leading to the village with burning tires and threatened to burn the tents of all the refugees if they did not leave of their own accord.
Qsarnaba Mayor Abdel-Karim Dirani said the clashes were a result of festering tensions between the refugees and the owners of the lands where the tents were erected.
He noted that residents of both Qsarnaba and Temnin felt threatened by the refugees, both for security reasons, as there were several identified “troublemakers” among them, and for economic reasons, as they often compete with the Lebanese for jobs.
He said that the tented community where the assault took place was located near residential homes and included over 60 tents.
Dirani asked the authorities to ensure that the tented community was moved to a remote area away from residential homes and under surveillance at all times by the security forces.