Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Ain al-Helwa Palestinian refugee camp is in the spotlight once more, after more than 10 months of relative calm following a shake-up of the Fatah security operation in the camp, and the establishment of a monitoring committee made of various representatives of Palestinian factions to deal with any daily problems. However the spotlight has returned once more to the Palestinian refugee camp – which witnessed fighting and clashes in 2007 between the Jund al-Sham terrorist group and the Lebanese army – with reports that the Fatah al-Islam terrorist group are set to attack a number of Lebanese targets. Palestinian security sources have claimed that this plan is being driven by “suspicious Lebanese and regional hands.”
Head of the Palestinian Armed Struggle, Colonel Mahmoud Issa, who heads security in the Ain al-Helwa refugee camp, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the remnants of the disbanded terrorist organization Fatah al-Islam are trying to re-organize their group at the Ain al-Helwa camp to carry out suspicious [terrorist] operations.”
He added that “some parties that have an interest in targeting the security of the [refugee] camps and the surrounding area stand behind these operations and the attempt to revive Fatah al-Islam.”
In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Colonel Mahmoud Issa, who goes by the nom de guerre of “Al-Lino” revealed that the Ain al-Helwa refugee camp has been experiencing security breaches over the past week, and stressed that he would “strike these remnants [of the Fatah al-Islam group] with an iron fist.”
He added that “we enjoy factional and popular support and we will not allow these groups to breath; we will deal with anybody who tries to circumvent Lebanese security.”
Colonel Issa promised “to arrest these elements and to put an end to all the extremist groups that use Islam as a cover.” He added “despite the official declaration of the disbandment of the Fatah al-Islam group, it seems that the group’s Emir Osama al-Shehabi has received orders to return to operations” stressing that “we are on the lookout for him and his group, who are well-known by us, and we will take action against them.”
Over the past week, the Ain al-Helwa Palestinian refugee camp has seen armed confrontation between the Palestinian Fatah group that is in charge of the camp’s security and members of the disbanded terrorist organization Fatah al-Islam, resulting in a number of injuries to the group’s members, as well as civilians.
Well informed sources within the Ain al-Helwa camp informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “a series of security incidents have taken place at night over the past week…including grenades being thrown into the street, as well as explosives planted [in several areas].” The sources also indicated that there was a failed assassination attempt on Fatah member Ayman al-Dajjani.
The source added that “security events culminated after a group made up of Fatah security guards confronted an armed group of 6 individuals they believed were members of Fatah al-Islam, after 3 explosions shook the camp’s eastern side.
These successive security breaches in the Ain al-Helwa camp have resulted in schools being closed, and the camp’s monitoring committee holding emergency meetings, which announced that “there has been a series of security breaches carried out by suspicious figures with the aim of undermining the security and stability of the camp.” The committee also confirmed that “all [Palestinian] group’s and factions stand together against any breach of security, on the basis of national participation and mutual respect.”
The disbanded Fatah al-Islam group is a radical Sunni Islamist terrorist organization that was first formed in November 2006. It has been described as a militant jihadist organization, with some reports claiming the group has ties to Al Qaeda. The Fatah al-Islam group found itself in the news in May 2007 after taking part in bloody clashes against the Lebanese Army at the Nahr al-Bared UNRWA Palestinian refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. In clashes which lasted for over three months, more than 400 people were killed, including civilians, before the Lebanese army was able to re-establish control of the camp. Fatah al-Islam leader, Abdul Rahman Awad was killed by the Lebanese army in August 2010; he was succeeded by Osama al-Shehabi.