Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Fierce clashes rock Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon

A pall of smoke over the Ain al Hilweh camp near the southern Lebanese coastal city of Sidon A pall of smoke over the Ain al Hilweh camp near the southern Lebanese coastal city of Sidon
Saul Franklin | 13 April, 2017, 02:13

Beirut- Clashes in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon came to a halt on Tuesday after Lebanese and Palestinian parties forced the Fatah Movement to accept a deal that ends the clashes with the "Bilal Badr" group.

Ambulances rushed the wounded to hospitals near the Ein el-Hilweh camp in the port city of Sidon, and Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported that four people were killed since the fighting began Friday. Sidon's government hospital was struck by a rocket.

Clashes were halted on Tuesday morning after reports that the "Bilal Badr" group had left the neighborhood where it had taken refuge and had prevented the joint Palestinian security force from deploying.

The 100-member-force Joint Security Force includes members of Fatah Movement, Hamas, Osbat al-Ansar and other nationalist and Islamist Palestinian groups.

An AFP correspondent on the outskirts of the camp said fighting was continuing on the narrow streets of its residential neighbourhoods, with the sound of machinegun fire and rocket-propelled grenades audible in much of the surrounding city of Sidon. Per an agreement with the PLO, Lebanon's security forces are not authorized to enter the camp.

The clashes erupted in the camp on Friday as the Joint Palestinian Security Force started deploying throughout the camp.

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According to United Nations figures, roughly 460,000 Palestinians are now living in 12 refugee camps scattered across Lebanon.

Gunfire and explosions were heard on Sunday night, but Lebanese media said the camp appeared calm on Monday.

The spokesman for the Council of Palestinian Scholars in Lebanon said the radical groups were issuing fatwas authorising the killing of people they disagreed with.

"This has led to chaos in Ain el-Hilweh", said Sheikh Mohammed al-Muwad, in his office in Sidon.

The incident has raised fears of spiraling violence in Ain el-Hilweh, which has seen intermittent clashes in recent months.

Ain al-Hilweh is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria.

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