WADI KHALED, Lebanon — Syrian refugees in Lebanon's far northeast corner can hear the war raging across the border, where some of their family members are fighting, and dying, in the revolt against Bashar al-Assad.
The men are clamoring for a signature on their ration cards. For them, it is the difference between feeding their families tonight, and not. The refugees here support the Syrian revolution, and they have fled the government's shelling of their villages.
Donated food is their lifeline. Volunteers at a mosque ration it out as each person reaches the door. But it is barely enough.
Batoul Hamadi, a 17-year-old girl, had dreams of becoming an accountant. Now she collects bread for 18 members of her family. "My mother wouldn't allow me to work. But I should look for work to provide for me and my sisters and brothers. I need to work. I'm obliged to bring in money for my family," she said.
Across northern Lebanon it's easy to see smoke rising from some of the villages the refugees have fled.
The people at this makeshift refugee center are safe from the violence. But the same cannot be said about some of their relatives. Fuda Hussein has lost three of her sons fighting for the Free Syrian Army. "How should I feel? I feel nothing. I lost my house, I lost my sons. I have nothing. I only ask God to make me patient and give me the strength to keep us alive," she said.
She lives in a room with several other women and their children. The electricity works only sometimes and dozens share one toilet.
Syria is literally a stone's throw away from some neighborhoods here. The family at this large but very basic house is hosting 27-year-old Khaled Daor, who was a rebel fighter until he lost part of his right hand to an artillery shell explosion. "My country is in bad shape. It is being bombed every day. How can I express it? It's very stressful. Life is very difficult," he said.
The refugees in Wadi Khaled received Lebanese government medical help for a while, but that has stopped. The valley's economy is at a standstill, with the war all but ending cross-border trade. And the local council has no resources to help, says the regional mukhtar Ali Al-Badawi. "As long as the Assad regime stays in power, we will have no future and our situation will continue to be very bad," he said.
Some of the Syrian refugees have been in Lebanon for more than a year. And with recent rebel advances and the strong government counteroffensive, it is more difficult than ever to predict when they might be able to go home.