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Conflict Incident Report

Syrian refugees face reprisals after beheading, some forced to leave

Date of incident: 
September 9, 2014
Death toll: 
Number of Injured: 
Actors/Parties Involved: 
Syrian Civilians/Refugees

Syrians across Lebanon expressed a sense of foreboding Monday after the beheading of a second Lebanese soldier by Islamist militants heightened tensions across the country. The announcement Saturday that ISIS members had decapitated Abbas Medlej, a captive Lebanese soldier, sparked outbursts of rage across the country, largely leveled against Syrians, whom many blame for the country’s deepening security crises. Unknown men expelled a number of Syrian refugees Monday from the southern town of Houla, while residents of an encampment in Burj al-Shemali near Tyre were given written eviction notices. “We’re not against Syrian refugees,” insisted Ali Deeb, the mayor of Burj al-Shemali. “But we don’t want gatherings of camps [of Syrians] for hygiene reasons and also security reasons.” In the Beirut suburb of Burj Hammoud, residents circulated a flyer Monday demanding Syrians leave the neighborhood. “We ask Syrian citizens living in Burj Hammoud to evacuate the area by Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 6 p.m. and [the decision is] in solidarity with the martyrs of the Lebanese Army,” the flyer read. Many Lebanese blame Syrians for the clashes that erupted last month in Arsal, which resulted in the death of 19 members of the Lebanese security forces and the capture of at least 29 more. Some of the Islamists involved in the fighting are believed to have sought shelter in refugee camps in Arsal. In Arsal itself, Syrians said that while the situation between refugees and locals was particularly tense, no violent altercations had occurred since news of Medlej’s death broke Saturday night. “The situation is bad. We are very worried,” said Abdallah al-Masri, a Syrian refugee living in Arsal. “Arsalis accuse us of being responsible for the clashes ... We rarely go out of our house.” Residents of the Bekaa town have welcomed more than 100,000 Syrians, but refugees say that the support they long enjoyed from the local community was abruptly cut off after last month’s clashes. Maram, who hails originally from Qusair, had been living in a rented room in Arsal but was evicted after the clashes. “Some Arsalis, they believe that Syrians brought the problems to their town and have kicked us out of their houses.” Some refugees said they sympathized with the Lebanese people’s outrage. “We are being treated nicely by the Lebanese people,” said Mohammad Ali Hassoun, a refugee living in the southern town of Bisarieh. “But at the same time we are scared there will be a reaction to ISIS’s criminal acts. If we are asked to leave, we will,” he said. “Lebanese in Bisarieh do not pose a danger to Syrian refugees,” said Mayor Fouad Mushawrab. He admitted, however, that “some people” in surrounding areas would use Medlej’s death as an excuse to spark a confrontation between locals and Syrians. In an effort to maintain control over an increasingly fragile security situation, Lebanese authorities are cracking down on Syrians suspected of belonging to militant groups. Security forces arrested Syrian citizen Mohammad Abdullah al-Salami in Marjayoun for suspected involvement with ISIS. Amy Intelligence then raided a house in the southern town of Rabb Thalathin, where Salami’s brothers reside. Youssef and Sultan al-Salami were arrested, charged with belonging to the Nusra Front. Mona Monzer, a spokesperson for UNHCR, said that the situation was “very sensitive.” “The UNHCR is in continuous contact with the local authorities and the government to try to alleviate the tensions between the Lebanese and the refugees,” she said. The vast majority of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon are women and children, she added. Tensions between Lebanese host communities and Syrian refugees have been brewing for months. In south Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have settled in under-developed areas long neglected by the state. But in Arsal at least, refugees were more concerned about renewed hostilities between Islamists and the Lebanese Army than reprisals by Arsalis. “People say the clashes will start again soon,” Maram said. “And if they do, we’re not getting out of here alive.” “Some people say Arsal is a cemetery. They’re right.”

Primary category: 
Forced Displacement of Population
Classification of conflict (primary): 
Conflicts of social discrimination
Violent and unjust treatment of different categories of people and individuals based on race, age, gender or sexuality, committed by the State, groups and individuals, related to a lack of protection and rights, inefficiency of the Justice system and persisting social and economic vulnerabilities.
Classification of conflict(secondary):
Border conflicts (Syrian border)
Violations, disputes and/or conflicts arising between rival armed groups along the Lebanese/Syrian borders which involve parties or militant groups from the Lebanese and Syrian side in both Lebanon and Syria. These conflicts also encompass transnational groups (such as faith-based regional groups, e.g. ISIS, al-Nusra Front) that cannot be considered as strictly Syrian, Lebanese or of any other national entity.