On Sunday, the Lebanese Army detained 35 Syrians who crossed into the northern Bekaa Valley on charges of carrying arms. However, 28 of them were subsequently released after it was ascertained that they had not used their weapons in Lebanon.
Wearing a brown leather jacket with a thick gray scarf wrapped around his neck, the hollow-eyed Abu Abbas appears still in shock from the experiences he and his family endured in Qusayr.
“There was no electricity, no water, no phones. It was too dangerous to walk to the shops to buy bread because of the snipers,” says the father of three small children. “We could not sleep at night because we never knew when a shell would hit our house.”
One mortar round exploded on the roof of his home, he says, although his family – sheltering on the ground floor – escaped injury.
Abu Abbas's family adds to the more than 7,000 refugees already registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
“That is the number we are hearing, but we have teams doing an assessment in the Bekaa today,” says Dana Sleiman, spokeswoman in Lebanon for the UNHCR.
Most of the refugees have moved in with family and friends in Sunni-populated towns and villages in the Bekaa Valley.
In the remote town of Arsal in the eastern Bekaa, some 200 people have settled into private homes and are being cared for by the local community, according to Ali Hojeiri, the mayor.
“The people here are giving them food and shelter,” he says. “We have had no help from the government at all. It is difficult for us but the Syrians are welcome here.”