Back to PLO Bulletin 1-15 July 1979


We reached the old Lebanese port city of Tyre in the early morning. The city, one of the largest in Lebanon, is partially deserted. The reason for its desertion is clearly inscribed on the sides of high rise buildings where Israeli bombardments have left apartments without walls. As we drove down the coastal road, we saw that the port, once the busiest part of the city, was literally empty. A pile of stone is all that remains of the port's control tower.

Viewing signs of destruction along the way, we drove south to the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh. The camp, set up after the creation of the Zionist state of Israel in 1948, houses Palestinian refugees from northern Palestine.

For those of us who knew it before the latest round of Israeli aggression, Rashidiyeh seemed partially empty. Walking through the narrow alleys of the camp we came across a clinic run by a Swedish-Norwegian medical team in cooperation with the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

Inside the clinic, after touring the small but well organized medical facilities, we sat to talk to Dr. Git Wikstrom from Sweden. "Last week they shelled the school 200 meters from here. We are shelled from the border and from Haddad's positions," she said.

When we asked what kinds of precautions they take against such savage bombardment by Israeli forces, she replied, "There are shelters in some parts of the camp but we at the clinic make sure that most of our patients don't come at one time. We treat them and then send them home directly, to save them from massacre."

Asked about the major health problems facing the camp, Dr. Wikstrom told us that the major problem is that of sanitation and obtaining potable water. Because of this lack "many people suffer from infections and poisoning. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency does nothing," she added. "They run away the moment the Israelis start shelling."

"Can you believe it? " she exclaimed. "There are children who have been staying in shelters underground for the past four months!" At that moment Yusuf, a member of the Popular Committee of Rashidiyah camp, came into our discussion and, pointed out that "a war of genocide has been unleashed by Israel against us," meaning against the Palestinian refugees.

Yusuf talked to us about UNRWA assistance given to refugees at the camp. "100 grams of rice, 200 grams of lentils and 100 grams of margarine is distributed monthly to each family. This is not much, and moreover UNRWA stopped registering newly born children 15 years ago."

Israeli naval bombardment in Tyre

Briefing us on the social and economic structure of the camp, he said that the population of the camp had been over 12,000 grouped in 2227 families. There are also 327 families of martyrs supported by the PLO Social Affairs Institution.

Two to three thousand of the inhabitants of the camp normally work on nearby farms as day laborers, while over a thousand have left Lebanon to work abroad. The rest of the camp's workforce travel here and there looking for jobs to maintain their families.

"Because of the latest round of shelling only 2000 people are left in the camp," he said. "The rest have fled to Sidon where they are staying in empty garages and schools that have been closed for the summer. They subsist in subhuman conditions."

Dr. Git Wikstrom examines patient at Rashidiyah clinic
After these discussions we toured the camp to witness the destruction of schools and the remains of houses burnt by phosphorous bombs, a form of napalm. "Here my brother was killed," our guide said, pointing to a house whose roof had been blown off by an Israeli shell. The small house still had the remains of what used to be household furniture. A picture of Jesus and Mary hung at one end of the wall in a cockeyed position. As if trying to divert us from our grief, our guide said, "This is nothing, this is only one out of hundreds of houses destroyed, and my brother is only one of the thousands martyred." Such are the ordeals of the Palestinian refugees.

After visiting Rashidiyeh we proceeded to another Palestinian refugee camp, Bourj Shimali. At Bourj Shimali we also witnessed the partial desertion of the camp and the massive destruction which caused it.

Rashidiyah camp: a "war of genocide" against Palestinians
We visited a handful of the 700 homes destroyed there. "They have been using American supplied rockets," one of the inhabitants explained. "American fragmentation shells have hit the refugee population hard." His voice rose as he explained his ordeal to us. "You know, they use timed shells which explode when we come out of our shelters to collect the remains of our belongings and to look for the killed and wounded!"

This is the net outcome of American technology transferred into the hands of the number one Zionist terrorist, Begin. Our brief visit to southern Lebanon enabled us to witness the massive destruction and war of genocide committed by Israeli warmongers against a defenseless population staying in refugee camps after being thrown out of their homes in Palestine.

This dual ordeal of the Palestinian people is confronted by the people at large because of their firm belief that, in the words of our guide, "One day we will go back to Palestine, we will have our own state and we will live like normal human beings. To attain this goal we will struggle and fight to the last Palestinian."

Zionist planes and American cluster bombs might kill civilians and destroy homes, but they cannot destroy the will of a people to regain their lost identity at any cost. This is the essence of Palestinian steadfastness and resistance.

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Originally published by The Palestine Liberation Organisation Unified Information as a bi-monthly information bulletin with copy permission granted via the notice "Partial or total reproduction is freely permitted by 'Palestine Bulletin'"

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