Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Fears Rise over Renewal of Clashes in Lebanon’s Ain el-Hilweh | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A man stands on a bullet-riddled building inside the Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, southern Lebanon, April 13, 2017. (Reuters)

Beirut – Unknown assailants tossed on Sunday night seven grenades in Lebanon’s Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, raising fear of the renewal of bloody clashes in the camp.

Tensions had been high in the area after the hardline factions rejected the plan to bolster security forces in the al-Tairy neighborhood. The Fatah movement had also refused to withdraw its members from the nearby al-Sohoun neighborhood.

Clashes had erupted in April between Fatah and the hardline Bilal Badr group after the latter refused the deployment of security forces in the camp.

Head of Palestinian national security in Lebanon, Sobhi Abu Arab told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Saboteurs and mercenaries of the Bilal Badr group tossed a number of hand grenades on the roofs of buildings after the security forces unit in the Tairy neighborhood was boosted by 50 new members.”

Thirty of these members are from Fatah and Palestinian Liberation Organization factions and the remaining 20 are from the Islamic alliance forces, he explained.

“Some sides are insisting on resisting the stability in the camp and the deployment of security forces,” he added.

Meanwhile, Fatah sources said the tossing of grenades is evidence that members of the Bilal Badr group are still present in the Tairy neighborhood, “even though we know that Badr himself is present in another neighborhood.”

The sources ruled out the possibility of the re-eruption of the clashes, “but we expect them to keep stoking tensions through inciting security unrest, throwing grenades or even assassinations.”

The developments of the past two days have proven that the Bilal Badr group is still present in the Tairy neighborhood despite an agreement that was reached last month that calls for a halt in armed clashes in that neighborhood, which was considered as a stronghold of the hardline faction.

The deal demanded that members of the group withdraw from the area after Fatah failed to resolve the clashes militarily. Sources at the time predicted that tensions will remain in Ain el-Hilweh as long as Badr remains on the loose.

At least seven people were killed in armed fighting in April in the crowded Ain el-Hilweh camp near the southern coastal city of Sidon. A ceasefire was announced after five days of unrest.

Lebanon’s Palestinian camps, which date back to the 1948 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors, mainly fall outside the jurisdiction of Lebanese security services. There are some 450,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps in Lebanon.