Lebanon minister says Syrian rebels posing as refugees

A Syrian boy stands as a girl plays in the background in front of tents at a refugee camp in the city of Tyre, in southern Lebanon (Photo: Reuters - Ali Hashisho)

Published Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lebanon's interior minister said on Thursday that Syrian rebels have set up training camps in Lebanon and accused the fighters of posing as refugees in order to cross the border.

He added that, because of this, refugees have become a threat to Lebanon's security.

Residents in northern Lebanon say that rebels-in-disguise are arming members of the refugee community in Lebanon to fight in Syria, according to Interior Minister Marwan Charbel.

In addition, members of the rebel Free Syrian Army have used Lebanon's mountainous terrain to regroup before staging attacks on the Syrian army across the poorly demarcated border.

"What is concerning me is the security situation," Charbel said at a joint news conference with the United Nations Development Program. "Who is exploiting (the Syrian refugees)? Who is arming them? We are not controlling them."

Although the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is almost two years old, the flow of refugees is accelerating and the number in Lebanon has doubled in the last three months, to 320,000.

Most of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon live with host communities rather than in camps like those in Jordan and Turkey.

The government and UNDP launched the "Lebanese Host Community Support Program" on Thursday in an attempt to raise funds for refugees and lessen the burden on host communities.

They did not say how much was needed but Lebanon, which already suffers power cuts and regular strikes, asked for $180 million in January to help care for the refugees.

Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said funds provided so far were insufficient and that the Syrian displacement could lead to violence in Lebanon if donor countries did not provide funds for water services, food subsidies and other projects.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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