First census reveals 174,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

At least 174,422 Palestinian refugees are living in Lebanon, according to a census organized by the Lebanese government, on Thursday. (Photo courtesy OCHA)
Updated 21 December 2017
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First census reveals 174,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

BEIRUT: There are just over 174,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the first census of Palestinians in the country has revealed.

The count was carried out by the government’s Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee in 12 refugee camps and about 150 informal Palestinian communities.

The census figure of 174,422 is lower than many in Lebanon had believed.

“Some people talked about 400,000, 500,000 or 600,000, and these would be used in politics,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Thursday at the announcement of the census result in Beirut. “The record has been set straight now. Our responsibilities toward our Palestinian brothers living in our land should not be subject to tension, and should not become a point of dispute, either among the Lebanese themselves or between the Lebanese and the Palestinians.

“Lebanon has never renounced its responsibilities, and this should be as clear as the sun. There should be no confusion. No window should be opened for resettlement or any other measures which may contradict the right of return or strip them of their identity, the identity of Palestine.”

The census result is also much lower than the 469,331 people registered in Lebanon with the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

“UNRWA does not have a headcount of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. What we have are official registration records for the number of registered Palestine refugees in Lebanon,” spokeswoman Huda Samra said.

“If someone registered with UNRWA in Lebanon decided to live outside Lebanon, they don’t notify us.”

The census found the population split evenly between men and women, and nearly half are 24 or younger. About 7.2 percent are illiterate, but 93.6 percent of children aged between 3 to 13 are enrolled in schools. About 18 percent of the workforce is unemployed.

The census also found that many occupants of the refugee camps were not Palestinian. About half of those in some camps were Syrians displaced by the war, and people of other nationalities also lived there because rents were low.

Hussein Muneimneh, head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, told Arab News the census provided “some of the most important indications that will guide the path of Lebanese-Palestinian relations in the future, and showed the possibility of transcending many taboos that have prevailed in the country for a long time.”

Ola Awad, head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, who came from Ramallah for the launch of the census results, said they were “a real chance to change the life conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon on all levels, and show the international community the real picture of their suffering and the effects of the Israeli occupation on our Palestinian people everywhere.”

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, a Palestine Liberation Organization official in Lebanon, told Arab News: “The number may rise to 200,000, but the numbers are not important. Rather, refugees in Lebanon should live in dignity and with equal opportunities for employment.”


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 13 min 6 sec ago
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.