The Palestinian Refugees

by Samir S. El-Jundi

Upon the creation of the state of Israel during the British mandate over Palestine, the majority of these homeless, who found refuge in the neighbouring Arab countries used to own lands. Others were farmers or labourers. Thus, Trans-Jordan, Lebanon, Arab Republic of Egypt, Syria, the Israeli Occupied West bank and Gaza became their new havens.

The unprecedented wave of refugees had created some financial and economic burdens for these countries due to the fact that these nations had to provide some kind of shelter, medicine and food for these desperate refugees. Later in 1967, another war broke out where an additional number of 500,000 Palestinian refugees had become homeless. Worse, the rest of the West Bank, Gaza strip and the Golan Heights were also captured by the Israelis.

The total number of the registered refugees nowadays is 2.5 million as a result of natural growth. This is according to the latest UNRWA refugee estimates. Nowadays, as many as one third of these refugees generally live in concrete blocks built by UNRWA which is responsible for these refugees in 61 different camps in the West Bank and the other host Arab countries.

However, the refugees in Lebanon haven't been granted the same privileges which the refugees in Jordan have. Therefore, the Palestinian refugee has to obtain special work authorization from the Lebanese authorities to be able to work.

On the eve of the civil war in Lebanon in 1975, the refugees had been badly affected and suffered a lot. The Palestinians have been subjected to all kinds of torture, violence, and invasions against their camps. This has resulted in thousands of casualties, deaths, and other major tragedies like the evacuation of the refugees towards more secure area.

In Syria, the Palestinians enjoy the same rights as the native Syrians except the right to vote. While on the West Bank and Gaza strip, the refugees have been living under the yoke of the Israeli occupation since 1967. The constant daily harassment, the harsh economic situation, the political pressure and other severe measures were all stepped up by the occupying Israeli machine against the unarmed civilian refugees. Accordingly, thousands of Palestinians have been wounded or killed during the latest uprising which broke out in 1987.

A prelude to the Palestinian Plight during successive epochs

As a result of the Israeli invasion to the Gaza Strip in 1956, the majority of the refugee camps had been demolished. This incident was something that had led to the second exodus of the Palestinians towards some more secure areas. Moreover, the 1967 war resulted in the additional evacuation of more than half a million refugees from their homes to Jordan, including the 200,000 refugees who had left their homes for the first time in 1948. There had been a tremendous effect on the Palestinian refugees in Jordan following the civil war in 1970 and the Arab Israeli war in 1973.

As I mentioned earlier the 1975 civil war had led to major losses among both the Palestinian refugees and the Lebanese citizens. In addition, the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been transformed to South Lebanon in 1978 when the Israeli military machine decided to invade the Southern area in Lebanon.

Accordingly, a further wave of terror had been exercised against the innocent refugees who had fled their camps towards the north in an attempt to escape the notorious practices of the new Israeli occupying force in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion to the south of Lebanon in June 1982. The result of which had caused large-scale evacuation for these refugees from their homes. The total number of those homeless as a result execeeded 63,000.

The camp wars in Lebanon had its negative impact on the refugees as well. Around 50,000 refugees had been forced to leave their houses, if there were left any, towards Sinon in 1982.

The Palestinian refugees had to suffer too, at the hands of the Israelis during the Intifada that started in December 1987. Those refugees had been subjected to all sorts of tortures and suffering on the hands of the Israeli Occupation Forces. A tremendous number of casualties and even death cases had engulfed the period of the uprising. The Israeli used all kinds of viciousness to curb the Intifadah. They used live ammunition against the protesters who opposed the inhuman practices of the soldiers.

Accordingly, thousands have been maimed for ever, others have lost their houses which were being demolished by the Israeli forces. A lot of people were detained to South Lebanon. The West Bank and Gaza strip were put under curfew for long periods. Other forms of restrictions were those like preventing the refugees from leaving their towns or homes. The universities and schools were all closed as well for long periods of time by the Israeli military authorities.

On the eve of the Gulf war, the Palestinian refugees had received a total blow when half a million Palestinians were forced to leave the Gulf area. The refugees had been denied the financial aid they primarily used to receive from their kins in that area. Furthermore, the influx of those refugees to Jordan and the West bank made the economic situation much worse due to the increasing numbers of the newcomers.

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