Lebanon's winter storm freezes refugees in flooded camps

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Strong winds and waves lash the Mediterranean Sea coastline, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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A Syrian refugee shovels mud in front of a makeshift shelter follwoing rain storms in Lebanon's Bekaa valley, on January 8, 2019. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee men discuss the situation as they stand in a flooded tent in Jib Jinnin, in the Bekaa Valley close to the Syrian border on January 7, 2019, as the region is endures storms and heavy rains. (AFP)
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Motorists drive on a flooded street in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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People cross a mud-flooded street in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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Men push a scooter that broke down on a flooded street in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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Strong waves hit the Mediterranean Sea coastline during a storm, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Updated 08 January 2019
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Lebanon's winter storm freezes refugees in flooded camps

  • "There is almost half a metre of water on the ground and in the tents.." a refugee said
  • Families were moving around in search of dryness and warmth

BEIRUT: Storms in Lebanon have flooded Syrian refugee camps, ruining tents, mattresses and food and compounding the misery of people enduring powerful winter winds and biting cold.
More than a million Syrians fled to neighbouring Lebanon since war broke out at home in 2011, and UN agencies say most live of them live in poverty.
"There is almost half a metre of water on the ground and in the tents ... the war in Syria forced us into this situation," said Hussein Zeidan who came to Lebanon from Homs in Syria in 2011.
He lives in a makeshift camp near a river in north Lebanon's Akkar region. He and some of its other residents said the storm had left them and their children with no clothes, furniture or food.
Families were moving around in search of dryness and warmth.
"Water flooded us in the camp: me and my children. Our situation is bad ... God bless our neighbours, they welcomed us in yesterday night. Today, water flooded them so we came here, as you can see, to this half-built house with no windows or doors," Ghazwan Zeidan, who has three children, said in Akkar.
The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that the storm had completely flooded or collapsed 15 informal settlements out of at least 66 that were "heavily impacted".
In the Bekaa valley in east Lebanon, the cold temperatures have also brought snow.
Abu Shahid, who fled Hasaka in Syria three years ago with his family, stood in flooded water in an informal camp in Bar Elias village. He described how his tent had completely submerged, damaging all his family's belongings.
"The only solution is to leave our things and move, run away with our lives ... Water is everywhere, where do we go?," he said. The previous night, he and his wife and two children had slept in a neighbour's tent that was less damaged by the floods.
For 19-year-old Hamed Haj Abu and his relatives, the night was cold and wet.
"We did not sleep all night. Some were sleeping for an hour, others were waking up. Water was coming on us, in the tent, from everywhere," he said in Bar Elias.
"My brother and his family first came to us, they are living nearby. We all did not sleep, we left the tent all together, we can't sit, look, water is flooding, we can't sleep on water."


Netanyahu to cut US trip short after rocket attack near Tel Aviv

Updated 6 min 2 sec ago
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Netanyahu to cut US trip short after rocket attack near Tel Aviv

  • Netanyahu said the incident will evoke a strong Israeli reaction
  • Palestinian rockets rarely reach an area at that distance from Gaza

MISHMERET/JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he is to cut short his trip to the United States after a rocket attack near Tel Aviv.

“In light of the security events I decided to cut short my visit to the US,” Netanyahu said, calling the attack a heinous crime that would draw a strong Israeli response.

He said he would meet with President Donald Trump in the coming hours and then fly back immediately.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv and caused it to catch fire, wounding seven Israelis, authorities and medics said.

Israel’s army said the rocket was fired from the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, raising the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.

The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, police said. Medics said they were treating one Israeli with moderate wounds and four others injured lightly.

Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometers from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.

Monday’s incident comes after two rockets were fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv — also rare — on March 14.

No damage or injuries were caused, but Israel responded to that and further rocket fire by hitting what it said were around 100 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.

Four Palestinians were reported wounded in those strikes.

Both Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the March 14 rocket fire toward Tel Aviv, raising the possibility they were launched by fringe groups.

Israel’s military said they were launched by Hamas, but later there were Israeli media reports that the army’s preliminary assessment was that they had been fired by mistake during maintenance work.

The reports were a sign that Israel was seeking to calm tensions. The military had refused to comment on the reports at the time.

Monday’s rocket comes just days ahead of the March 30 one-year anniversary of Palestinian protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.

An informal truce between Hamas and Israel had led to relative calm along the border of the blockaded strip, but recent weeks have seen another uptick in violence.