Lebanese nationals set fire to Syrian refugee camp forcing 370 residents to flee

A dispute led to a group of Lebanese nationals setting fire to an informal refugee settlement in the country’s north. Lebanon’s army arrested eight people.

The army said on Sunday it “arrested two Lebanese nationals and six Syrians over a personal dispute … between a number of Lebanese men and Syrian workers,” according to a statement.

“The Lebanese men fired bullets in the air and torched the tents of Syrian refugees,” it added, without elaborating on the cause of the altercation.

The fire on Saturday night tore through the tented shelters of some 75 families near the town of Bhanine in the north Lebanon Miniyeh region, leaving only a charred wasteland.

The camp’s more than 370 residents were forced to flee, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), and at least four people were taken to hospital for injuries

The National News Agency (NNA) reported that the fire followed an “altercation” between a member of a Lebanese family and “Syrian workers”.

Other youths from the Lebanese family then “set fire to some of the refugees’ tents”, the NNA added.

The Lebanese Civil Defence worked to control the blaze while the army and police were deployed to restore calm, according to the report.
A security source told AFP shots were heard, saying the fight in the Bhanine area was set off when Syrian workers demanded a wage which their employers refused to pay.

However, the same source said later that initial inquiries found the dispute could have been sparked by the harassment of a Syrian woman.

“Some families have fled the area out of fear because there were also sounds of explosions caused by household gas canisters blowing up,” Kabbara said.

Lebanon hosts 1.5 million Syrians, including about one million registered as refugees with the United Nations.

Authorities have called on refugees to return to Syria even though rights groups warn that the war-torn country is not yet safe.

In November, approximately 270 Syrian refugee families fled the northern Lebanese town of Bsharre after a Syrian national was accused of shooting dead a Lebanese resident, sparking widespread tension and hostility.