Address of the Prime Minister Mr. Fuad Siniora for Nahr al Bared Humanitarian Flash Appeal(مرفق: تقرير الأونروا)

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Ladies and Gentlemen:


I have asked you here today because we have a serious humanitarian emergency on our hands. What makes this situation especially distressing is that dispossessed refugees, many of them survivors of wars and displacement, have been uprooted once again, have had to leave their homes due to yet another conflict.


We did not choose this confrontation, which is not between the Lebanese and Palestinians, but is a war waged against them both; a war that comes less than a year after Israel’s destructive onslaught, the economic and social effects of which still weigh heavily upon us; a war waged by a fringe group of terrorists, Fateh al Islam, who have nothing to do either with Islam or the Palestinian cause; a war intended to destabilize the country and Palestinian-Lebanese relations which have just started to be placed, for the first time, on a solid footing after a number of socio-economic measures were taken to bridge confidence; a war waged in Ain Alaq, Nahr al Bared, Ashrafieh, Verdun, Aley, and now Sadd al Bouchriyeh; a war for the authority, credibility and sovereignty of the state and the security of its inhabitants, including those of Nahr al Bared. It is a war for the future of Lebanon and its people and for the preservation of tolerance, moderation and the democracy we cherish; a war that Lebanon cannot avoid and cannot lose.


Not facing up to this confrontation would compromise the future of Lebanese security and stability. It would turn Lebanon into an open field for continued vicious acts of violence against civilians. I assure you, our objectives in the present military operation are clear. We want to eliminate the threat posed by this group. Our position has been plain and consistent from the start. With the understanding of the majority of Palestinian organizations, we have urged the terrorists to surrender, with the assurance that they will be treated humanely and face a fair and transparent judicial process. Our calls have gone unanswered, leaving only the military option which we were forced to exercise as a last resort. The camp's population has repeatedly requested their departure and most of those that remain there are being held against their will. Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority has publicly condemned Fateh el-Islam and asserted that it bears no connection to any of the political organizations in Palestine. Arab leaders, the Arab League and the UN Security Council have also released strong statements of support for our efforts, concurrently and accurately identifying the group in the manner the Lebanese have.


Ladies and Gentlemen:


Our army is doing all it can to avoid unnecessary loss of life in spite of constant provocation, ensuring that all the wounded are treated and that the evacuees receive the best humanitarian assistance available. We have on several separate occasions secured a cessation of hostilities to allow for the evacuation of remaining civilians. It should be noted however that Fateh el-Islam is firing from civilian areas, targeting by sniper fire any civilians trying to flee, essentially holding remaining civilians as human shields.


We remain most concerned about the humanitarian situation of the residents of Nahr el-Bared. I have personally been following up regularly with the Higher Relief Council, UNRWA, UNICEF, the International Red Cross Federation, the Lebanese Red Cross, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, on the humanitarian efforts underway. We are committed to meeting the needs of the displaced and must rebuild the homes that have been damaged as a result of the hostilities. This endeavor will require the help and assistance of all our Arab brothers and friends in the international community. However, as you well know, we do not have the means to do this alone and are appealing for help from members of the international community and humanitarian agencies, as we all have a responsibility, together,toward the people of Palestine. The international community has responded in helping us to recover from last summer’s destructive Israeli invasion, and I ask you to do the same now. Let us join hands to transform a catastrophe, which has been created by criminals alien to our society and the Palestinian people, Fateh Al Islam, into an opportunity for the rebuilding of brotherly relations with the Palestinians and improving living conditions in the camps. We will be building on what has been achieved so far in improving Lebanese-Palestinian relations. It goes without saying that we remain committed to the national consensus, rejecting the final settlement and naturalization of Palestinian residents in Lebanon. All insinuations regarding the motives behind betterment of living conditions of the Palestinians contrary to this commitment are baseless.


Ladies and Gentlemen:


I have been working closely with Mr. Richard Cook, the director of UNRWA in Lebanon, to assess the needs on the ground. A direct consequence of this war has been that the Baddawi camp, once home to 16,000 people, now houses 37,000 people. This, of course, severely strains the capacities, infrastructure and supplies of the camp, and adds to the hardship of its inhabitants and the woes of its guests. In spite of the extensive efforts that are already under way, many needs have still not been met.


As such, UNRWA has presented a comprehensive short term response plan to meet, until August, the emergency needs of the displaced refugees directly resulting from this crisis. It covers many sectors, all of which are vital for the adequate living conditions of the evacuees. They include health, food, non-food items, shelter, education, water and sanitation, protection, security and immediate post-conflict support. The efforts and dedication of UNRWA, UNICEF, the ICRC and all the other civil society members that have been active in this crisis, will help the refugees to resume their normal lives with a minimum of suffering.


We have worked with most of you and with our friends in the international community, in order to rally support for our plan for improved camp conditions. But unless the core problem is addressed and Palestinian grievances are redressed, all these efforts will be short-lived. The problem stretches way beyond our borders, to the whole Middle East and to the world at large. Since its inception, this government has made concerted efforts to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian refugees living in the camps. We remain fully committed to the just Palestinian cause and stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine. We have for the first time addressed their social, educational and labor problems, nd their assimilation into the Lebanese economic cycle, while standing by our total commitment to their return to their homeland.


Ladies and gentlemen,


We have a joint duty to allay the fear and alleviate the suffering endured by the Palestinian refugees, an obligation to eradicate poverty, squalor and disease, to replace them with hope, dignity, acceptable living conditions and security. Security within the camps means security in the country at large; it also provides an environment conducive to economic activity. The Palestinian refugees have been the underserved victims of much injustice and we must heed their call for help. In earning their trust and showing them that they are not the targets but the unintended victims of this crisis we have pledged to them that their evacuation is temporary, their return to Nahr el-Bared is guaranteed and the reconstruction of their homes is assured.


I call upon you, Ladies and Gentlemen, to help us fulfill this pledge. We cannot afford to do it alone and we cannot afford not to do it. This cannot be another broken promise to the Palestinians. Rather, it must be the proof that they are not forgotten, that the international community will not abandon them and that we will do the right thing. Together, we are responsible. Together, we can make a difference. Thank you.

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