1000 Syrian Refugees Are Living in an Abandoned Lebanese Mall

In the central courtyard of an abandoned shopping mall in northern Lebanon, Hamad affectionately squeezes the cheek of one of his younger sisters. She briefly feigns disgust before planting a kiss on his cheek, turning on her heel, and running off into one of the many derelict shops that have become homes for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their home country.

Around 1,000 refugees—most of them Sunnis from the Syrian provinces of Hama and Idlib—currently live in the former shopping center, which is nestled in the small village of Deddeh, north of Tripoli. Most residents profess support for the Syrian opposition, though a number are in favor of the Assad regime and others appear apathetic, more concerned with looking after their families the the politics that led to them having to flee.

"Most of the kids here aren’t enrolled in school," says 17-year-old Hamad, who fled the northern Syrian city of Aleppo two months ago. "Some attend the local mosque for a couple of hours every day and receive instruction in reading and writing, but most of the time they don’t have anything to do and just try to amuse themselves."

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