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Horrified Lebanese shelter Syrian refugees after camp attack

75 families were made homeless when their tents were set on fire over the weekend
Syrian refugees salvage belongings from their ruined shelters at a camp set on fire overnight in the northern Lebanese town of Bhanine on 27 December (AFP)

Amer was deep in sleep after a hard day's work on a construction site when he was woken by the sound of men screaming that they were about to burn down his home.

Intruders had arrived at the Syrian refugee camp near Bhanine, in north Lebanon’s Miniyeh region, carrying materials to set the rag-tag tents ablaze.

"We did not believe them at first, but when the first tent started to burn, I carried my baby and a few clothes for him, and went running with my wife out of the tent," Amer, a Syrian refugee, told Middle East Eye.

'When the first tent started to burn, I carried my baby and a few clothes for him, and went running with my wife out of the tent'

- Amer, refugee

The blaze on Saturday night tore through the camp quickly, and devastated the belongings and homes of around 75 families.

The next day, the army said it had arrested two Lebanese and six Syrians over a dispute that is said to have preceded the attack on the camp.

"Army units intervened and patrolled the area and carried out raids to find those who were involved in the shooting and burning of tents, and the army was able to seize several military weapons, ammunition and military equipment in some houses that were raided," it said in a statement on Sunday.

Now, more than 370 Syrians have been rendered homeless, according the UN's refugee agency, as temperatures drop and Miniyeh residents anticipate the first snow of the season.

Syrian refugees salvage belongings from the wreckage of their shelters at a camp set on fire overnight in the northern Lebanese town of Bhanine on 27 December (AFP)
Syrian refugees salvage belongings from the wreckage of their shelters at a camp set on fire overnight in the northern Lebanese town of Bhanine on 27 December (AFP)

Some Lebanese, appalled at the attack, have opened their doors to the stranded refugees, and the UN says most have now found homes.

"What happened in the camp does not represent us at all," Muhammad Maslamany, a civil activist, told MEE.

"I offered my home as help for the damaged Syrian families, and now a Syrian family is living in it, and me and the father of the family sleep in my car to provide comfort for the women and children."

Rolla Karima, another Lebanese activist, expressed her deep sorrow about what happened in the camp.

'We are very ashamed that these mafias are somehow part of the Lebanese society. How were they able to forget their humanity during the burning of a camp full of women and children?'

- Rolla Karima, Lebanese activist

"We are very ashamed that these mafias are somehow part of the Lebanese society. How were they able to forget their humanity during the burning of a camp full of women and children?" she said.

"We have a house in Akkar city, and I offered it to help any Syrian family who needs housing now as a small compensation for the horror they witnessed."

Around 1.5 million Syrian refugees are taking shelter in Lebanon, making up a quarter of the host country's population.

Forced from Syria by the 10-year war raging in neighbouring Syria, refugees live in poverty in informal settlements across Lebanon, and have regularly faced both hostility and compassion from their host communities.

Individual disputes between Lebanese and Syrians have escalated previously.

In November, around 270 Syrians fled the mountain town of Bcharre, in north Lebanon, after one of their community was accused of shooting dead a local resident.