Majority of displaced Lebanese back home

UN: An estimated 90 percent of displaced Lebanese have returned home since the cease-fire began.

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August 24, 2006 01:22
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An estimated 90 percent of displaced Lebanese have returned home since the cease-fire began over a week ago, UN officials said Wednesday. The stream of refugees coming back from Syria, which reached 30,000 per day last week, has turned into a trickle, said Jack Redden, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. "We're now down to between 5,000 and 6,000 per day," he said, adding that UNHCR expects "the overwhelming majority" to return home. "In Syria, we're planning for a residual population of 2,000," Redden said. As a result, UNHCR will be moving almost all the aid supplies it stockpiled in Syria over the border to Lebanon. On Wednesday, one German and three Belgian military planes airlifted stoves, lanterns, tents and other essential equipment needed by returnees from Jordan to Lebanon. Two South African-made RG-32 "Scout" vehicles were also flown in to bolster the number of armored vehicles at the aid agency's disposal, Redden said. The World Food Program, which has been coordinating aid convoys for other UN agencies, already has 19 armored vehicles in Lebanon. The UN has ordered its staff to use the mine-proof 4x4s in parts of southern Lebanon because of the risk posed by unexploded ordnance and some 3,700 land mines planted along the so-called Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon. Teams of engineers have also begun to assess the needs of those villages most affected by the recent fighting. A UNHCR engineer in Tyre said his team had been able to visit about 30 villages in the south and found that some of them had suffered worse destruction during the month-long war than that seen in Bosnia, where ethnic fighting raged for more than three years in the 1990s.

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