Hundreds of Syrian refugees displaced after camp set ablaze

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Cairo/Damascus Dec. 27, 2020 Hundreds of Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been displaced after their camp was set on fire, Lebanese media and a watchdog reported on Sunday.

The incident took place in the area of Minieh in northern Lebanon following a fight between a local family and Syrian workers living in the tent camp on Saturday night, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA said.

Three people were injured in the fight, NNA reported without specifying the cause of the dispute.

Lebanese youth then torched dozens of tents at the site, forcing hundreds of residents to flee for safety, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Gas cylinders were heard exploding at the camp, Lebanese newspaper Annahar reported.

It took firefighters about four hours to put out the blaze, Lebanon’s civil defence said.

One person was hospitalized after suffering breathing problems as a result of the heavy smoke caused by the fire, it tweeted.

The Lebanese army said it had arrested an unspecified number of Lebanese citizens and six Syrians in connection with the incident.

It started with a “personal dispute” between a group of young Lebanese and Syrian workers, the army added in a statement.

The Lebanese then began shooting weapons into the air and set the camp alight, according to the statement.

Images carried by Lebanese media showed the site widely scarred by the fire. Some refugees gathered there to inspect their belongings.

The attack drew condemnation in Lebanon.

The country’s top Sunni Muslim cleric, Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian, called the torching a “heinous crime.”

He called on authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The Syrian refugees in Lebanon are guests. We have to assist them until they return to their homeland,” Derian added.

A Syrian government official voiced “extreme regret” over the arson and called on Syrian refugees to return home.

“Syria expresses extreme regret over the fire to which the Syrian refugee camp was subjected, and urges the Lebanese judiciary and other Lebanese agencies to shoulder their responsibilities in handling the incident and ensuring protection for the refugees,” an unnamed official at the Foreign Ministry said.

“Syria renews the call for Syrian citizens, who were forced to leave the country because of the unjust war on Syria, to return to the homeland,” the official said.

An estimated 1 million Syrian refugees have fled their war-torn homeland to neighbouring Lebanon since 2011.

Most of them live in scattered, informal camps.

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