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Ban visits Palestinian camp destroyed in 2007

Ban visits Palestinian camp destroyed in 2007

NAHR EL-BARED: The UN secretary-general appealed on Friday from Lebanon, urging the international community to provide necessary funding to help finish the rebuilding of a Palestinian refugee camp destroyed in fierce battles against Al Qaeda-inspired militants almost a decade ago.

Ban Ki-moon spoke during a visit to the Nahr el-Bared camp, where he inspected a school and was briefed on the ongoing reconstruction effort.

The Lebanese military fought a three-month battle in 2007 against the Al Qaeda-inspired Fatah Islam group inside the camp. The Lebanese army crushed the group, but the clashes also killed more than 170 soldiers and caused massive destruction, displacing the camp’s residents.

Almost a decade later, the reconstruction work is still not finished and many residents are still waiting to return.

“Almost half the construction has been made but there are still so many people waiting to be returned,” Ban said. “I’m urging the international community to provide remaining funding of at least 200 million dollars so that these people can return.”

Ban inspected the Aamaq school at the camp, where he was received by Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour and the Lebanese minister of social affairs, Rashid Derbas. A UN official explained on a map the ongoing reconstruction as hundreds of Palestinians gathered, chanting in support of the UN efforts.

Ban is on a two-day visit to Lebanon along with the World Bank Group president and chief of the Islamic Development Bank. He is also to visit a social center for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and an informal refugee settlement in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

Tiny Lebanon, which borders Israel and Syria, is home to around half a million Palestinian refugees. With a population of 4.5m people, Lebanon now also shelters more than 1 million registered Syrian refugees.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016

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