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Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon Say Peace Deal Abandoned Them

Many say Arafat has traded their birthright for limited autonomy

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PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat's visit to Gaza has stirred widespread resentment among many of about 250,000 Palestinian refugees left in Lebanon.

Far from feeling any benefit from the current peace process, some say it has aggravated their daily problems and reduced their hope of returning to homes in what is now Israel.

Many also feel used and forgotten by the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership, which used the refugee camps here as a springboard that eventually catapulted Mr. Arafat to Gaza. They fear that they - whose families fled Palestine in 1948 when the state of Israel was created - may end up paying the price for his deal with the Israelis.

``Arafat's slaughtered us with his agreement for [the West Bank town of] Jericho and Gaza,'' says Taghrid Musa, a young mother of four, as she prepares to lose her home for the sixth time in recent years. ``We, the refugees of 1948 - what's to become of us? We have no houses, no land, no jobs.''

Mrs. Musa, whose parents fled from the Safad area of northern Israel in 1948, is among an estimated 30,000 Palestinian refugees who are about to become homeless again by Lebanese government order. They are being evicted this month from buildings where they have been squatting, having lost their homes in refugee camps that were destroyed or overrun during the 1975-90 Lebanese conflict.

``Arafat's visit to Gaza was a big blow for us - and that's the result,'' says neighbor Emile al-Khouri, pointing to a pile of newly packed cardboard boxes holding his family's belongings in another of the apartments.

He and others believe that, by ignoring the refugees who fled Palestine in 1948, the current peace process has encouraged the Lebanese government - always a reluctant host - to do its best to ensure that the Palestinian exiles will not become a permanent feature.


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