Palestinians' 'death' march ends in picnic: Robert Fisk in Zomhoriyeh watches a protest by 'forgotten' deportees

THE FIRST Israeli shells smashed into the rocks high above the Palestinian deportees, on the hillside to the west, fluffy little puffs of smoke that floated off down the wadis. The fourth shell came with a crack that took the Palestinians' breath away as they sat on the roadway within sight of the Israelis. Minutes later came another round, slightly closer this time, sending a spray of rock, debris and metal splinters into the air only 200 feet from us. Then a tank appeared over the ridgeline to the south. Another Palestinian 'death' march home was about to come to a halt in southern Lebanon.

The quotation marks are essential. For however cruel - and illegal - the fate of the 396 Palestinians still marooned in the mountains here more than four months after Israel exiled them from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, there was an essential element of theatre about yesterday's little drama.

It was a co-production of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, co- starring the Israeli army, the so-called 'South Lebanon Army' and, quite possibly, Sister Syria as well. Which is why, by dusk last night, no one had been hurt.

The deportees' march from their camp at Marj al-Zohour to the edge of Israel's occupation zone at Zomhoriyeh was staged to protest at the Middle East peace talks, which resume today. 'The Arab nations and the United Nations have forgotten us,' a Palestinian wailed mournfully over a Tannoy before yesterday's march. But, of course, things were not that simple. For the Palestinians in southern Lebanon - most of them sympathisers of the two Islamic groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad - know full well that Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has endorsed the talks. So, too, has Lebanon, their unwilling host nation, and - more importantly - Lebanon's much-trumpeted sister-country, Syria. Indeed, there was even a carload of journalists from the Damascus government newspaper Tishrin beside the Palestinians yesterday to ensure that things did not get out of hand.

And, 600 feet farther down the road - upon which the Palestinians sat holding their Korans - we could also see Israeli soldiers watching the deportees through binoculars, without making any further attempt to drive them back. They and their 'South Lebanon Army' militia colleagues did fire several dozen bullets but sent most of their shells into the hills.

For their part, the Palestinians resolved to spend the night on the highway just north of the Israeli lines. 'We'll not move forward any more,' the Palestinian closest to the Israelis confided. 'We don't want to commit suicide, just to make a protest.' By late afternoon, therefore, the deportees were munching bread rolls and listening to their transistor radios without bothering to glance at their enemies any more. A dangerous picnic, perhaps, but not yet a deadly one.

Suggested Topics
News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

News
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London