Lebanon evicting Syrian refugees from towns, says rights group

In this April, 18, 2018 file photo, a Syrian displaced man who fled the war in Syria carries his belongings past Lebanese soldiers as he prepares to return to his village of Beit Jinn in Syria, near the Lebanese-Syrian border, in Shebaa, southern Lebanon. (AP Photo/Ziad Choufi)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Lebanon evicting Syrian refugees from towns, says rights group

  • Human Rights Watch said it has documented evictions in 13 towns and villages putting more than 3,600 Syrians on the streets since 2017
  • Evictions said to be instigated by landlords, municipal authorities, and the military intelligence services for a variety of reasons

BEIRUT: Local officials in Lebanon are throwing Syrian out of their towns in a violation of their rights as refugees and residents, a human rights group said in a new report released Friday.
Human Rights Watch said it has documented evictions in 13 towns and villages putting more than 3,600 Syrians on the streets since 2017. It says another 7,000 Syrians were forced to abandon a camp near a military base during that time.
The rights group said it was a worrying trend ahead of an international donors’ summit in Belgium to support Lebanon and other countries neighboring war-torn Syria.
Lebanese politicians say their country is straining under the weight of hosting nearly one million Syrian refugees. The tiny Mediterranean country has the highest per capita refugee population in the world: roughly one in five people are refugees, including some 175,000 Palestinians.
Syrians face numerous barriers to employment, education, and housing in Lebanon, with many forced to live under the radar because Lebanon ordered the UN’s refugee commission to halt refugee registrations in 2015.
But anti-Syrian rhetoric has ticked up in recent months as parliamentary elections loom in May.
Local officials in several municipalities have ordered Syrians out en masse, posting eviction notices on their doors, and sometimes sending the police to physically intimidate the refugees if they do not comply, said Human Rights Watch.
The evictions do not appear to have the formal support of the national government. Human Rights Watch called on national authorities to step in and stop the evictions.
“Right now, Syrian refugees do not have the guarantee that they are safe in their homes,” said Bassam Khawaja, a Lebanon researcher for Human Rights Watch.
The UN’s refugee agency said in a March report it had documented 13,700 Syrian refugee evictions in 2017. It said evictions were instigated by landlords, municipal authorities, and the military intelligence services for a variety of reasons, including security, social tensions, and failure to pay rent.
Human Rights Watch says another 42,000 refugees are at risk for eviction.


US believes Daesh likely responsible for Manbij blast

Updated 12 min 2 sec ago
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US believes Daesh likely responsible for Manbij blast

  • US government sources say the Pentagon and other national agencies are investigating the bombing
  • This is one of the deadliest attacks on US forces in Syria since their deployment in 2015

WASHINGTON: The US government believes the Daesh militant group is likely responsible for Wednesday’s attack in northern Syria that killed four Americans, although it has not reached a firm conclusion, two US government sources said on Thursday.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon and other US agencies were investigating who carried out the attack in Manbij, Syria.
Officials studying the incident are not dismissing Daesh’s claim of responsibility for the blast, which killed two US troops and two civilians working for the US military, and regard it as plausible if not likely, one of the sources said.
The attack occurred nearly a month after President Donald Trump confounded his own national security team with a surprise decision on Dec. 19 to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, declaring Daesh had been defeated there.
The Manbij attack appeared to be the deadliest on US forces in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015 and it took place in a town controlled by a militia allied to US-backed Kurdish forces.
If Daesh carried out the attack, that would undercut assertions, including by US Vice President Mike Pence several hours after the blast on Wednesday, that the militant group has been defeated.
Experts do not believe Daesh has been beaten despite its having lost almost all of the territory it held in 2014 and 2015 after seizing parts of Syria and Iraq and declaring a “caliphate.”
While the group’s footprint has shrunk, experts believe it is far from a spent force and can still conduct guerilla-style attacks. A Daesh statement on Wednesday said a Syrian suicide bomber had detonated his explosive vest in Manbij.
Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement was one of the reasons his former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, resigned. It stunned allies and raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
How and when US forces leave has deepened uncertainty in northern Syria, with Turkey and Syrian President Bashar Assad ready to fill the vacuum.
The US-backed YPG militia that is allied to the fighters holding Manbij last month invited Assad into the area around the town to forestall a potential Turkish assault. Syrian army troops entered the area soon after.
The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces vowed on Thursday to ramp up attacks on Daesh remnants.