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Shatila refugee camp...guns are common here

  Posters, some showing Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian Authority leader, cover a wall in Shatila.   (Nahlah Ayed/CBC)

CBC's Nahlah Ayed is in Lebanon, reporting on the fate of the Palestinian refugees there.

Exiles Without End on cbc.ca

Here's an excerpt from her blog:

If we are to believe what some Shatila residents tell us, guns are pretty common here.

"Are they common? They're in every second house," one camp official told us when the issue came up during a casual conversation.

"Guys are always showing off about how many bullets they have at home," a young man told me in passing.

So far, there's been little overt evidence of weapons. Though one of the first people we saw the first day we entered Shatila was a young man sitting in front of one of the party offices cradling a Kalashnikov.  

Political posters, some showing Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian Authority leader and founder of the Fatah party, cover a wall in Shatila. Numerous political parties and factions are active in the camp, with allegiances broadly split between Hamas and Fatah but complicated by various internal rivalries and divisions.

In time, we realized there are many factions and political parties here -- some of them remnants of those that fought during Lebanon's civil war between 1975 and 1990. And at virtually every one of their offices, a young, armed man stands guard.

The parties aren't exactly on friendly terms with each other. They are divided along the same fault lines as they are in Gaza and the West Bank, and they rarely agree on anything. Even within their loose groupings, there is rivalry and competition.

"There are two civilian administrative committees [in Shatila]: one is loyal to Hamas, and the other to Fatah, " says Khaled Abu Al Noor, a member of the Democratic Front party and the Fatah-affiliated civil committee.

Each pretends the other doesn't exist.

So, who is actually in charge? Everybody, and nobody. There is tension as a result, but only very, very rarely does that lead to gun fights in Shatila. But it has in other Palestinian camps, where some of the parties are much more heavily armed and polarized. 

Read more in Exiles Without End: Palestinians in Lebeanon

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