Beirut – Palestinian factions and concerned Lebanese forces are exerting efforts to overcome the last remaining obstacles that are standing in the way of the formation of the new joint Palestinian security force in the volatile Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon.
The previous joint force, which is tasked with maintaining security in the camp, collapsed as a result of disputes between the various rival factions. The differences between the factions erupted into armed clashes in Ain el-Hilweh that coincided with a visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Lebanon in February.
Commander of the Palestinian National Security in Lebanon Sobhi Abou Arab told Asharq Al-Awsat that efforts to form the new force are underway, “but we do not want to be too hasty. We are taking our time in the process to ensure its success.”
He said that the Palestinian factions are keen on “ensuring the representation of all forces in this committee.”
This includes the Islamic forces that had previously, for undisclosed reasons, refused to take part in the joint Palestinian force.
Abou Arab added that the new joint force will be “led by a force that represents all factions and groups.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of the Palestinian Factions Alliance, Abou Imad al-Rifai, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the process of forming the 100-member joint force “is nearing its conclusion.”
“Great effort is being made to overcome some obstacles that are hindering the completion of this mission,” he explained.
He revealed that some of these obstacles include the reservations of the Islamic forces, but efforts are being exerted to resolve them. Sources from the Islamic forces told Asharq Al-Awsat that they are “seriously reconsidering” the decision to refrain from taking part in the joint force.
In the meantime, the Palestinian factions and concerned Lebanese powers have increased their meetings in recent hours in order to speed up the formation of the joint force.
MP Bahia Hariri held talks on the matter with a delegation from the “Usbat al-Ansar al-Islamiya” group. A similar meeting was held between head of army intelligence in the South Khodr Hammoud and Islamic forces in Ain el-Hilweh.
Dozens of fugitives wanted by Lebanese authorities have sought refuge in extremist hotspots in Ain el-Hilweh that have frequently clashed with the Fatah movement in the camp.
An agreement was recently reached between Lebanese security forces and Palestinian factions to pressure Lebanese fugitives and those harboring them in the camp to hand them over to the country’s security forces.
Tensions in Ain el-Hilweh have spread to the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Beddawi in northern Lebanon. Sources in the camp said that they revolve around undeclared disputes between the local factions.
Clashes had erupted in al-Beddawi on Wednesday, which the Palestinian powers said was an isolated incident.
On Thursday, the joint security committees in the camp had handed over a Palestinian who is wanted for sniping dead one person and wounding another. A cautious calm has since settled over the camp.