500 Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon

A bus carrying Syrian refugees evacuated from the southern Lebanese village of Shebaa passes through the Masnaa crossing on the Lebanon-Syria border leading to Damascus on April 18, 2018. The refugees were returning to their village of Beit Jinn in the southwestern Damascus countryside. (AFP / HASSAN JARRAH)
Updated 18 April 2018
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500 Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon

  • UNHCR official says refugees wanted to return home to Syria because living conditions in Lebanon were difficult
  • Syrian refugees make up roughly a quarter of Lebanon’s population

BEIRUT: Several hundred Syrian refugees left Lebanon to return home yesterday in a rare instance of voluntary repatriation to one of the world’s most notorious war zones.

Around 500 people, including children and the elderly, left the Shebaa area of southeast Lebanon for the district of Beit Jinn, southwest of Damascus. 

They decided to return more than a month ago, but waited until weather conditions improved before making the journey.

Younes Othman, 31, who was a farmer in Syria and has spent the last four years in Lebanon, told Reuters: “We had no news about our hometown. My family and I are happy to be going back.” 

Yesterday’s convoy of 15 buses, adorned with posters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, was organized by the Lebanese government, with the UN refugee agency insisting that it had played no part in the arrangements.

UNHCR spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled told Arab News that the agency had only visited the returning Syrians to make sure they were going home voluntarily, but had not checked the situation in Beit Jinn. 

She said the refugees said they were returning to Syria because living conditions in Lebanon were difficult and they wanted to reunite with family.

“The displaced persons’ decision to return is based on assurances from their families inside Syria,” she said.

Syrian refugees make up roughly a quarter of Lebanon’s population, with around a million people estimated to have fled there since the civil war began in 2011.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called for displaced Syrians in his country to be returned to “safe areas” in their homeland.


Terror suspect blows himself up near Egypt's Al-Azhar University in Cairo

Updated 17 min 52 sec ago
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Terror suspect blows himself up near Egypt's Al-Azhar University in Cairo

CAIRO: A terror suspect blew himself up after he was surrounded by police near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo on Monday.

Security forces have condoned off the area and are searching for other explosives, according to local media reports.

More to follow ...