Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat-The issue of Palestinian arms in Lebanon, both inside and outside of the Palestinian refugee camps is an issue that has returned to the fore following a statement from the Secretary-General of the Fatah al-Intifada group Colonel Abu Moussa. Abu Moussa announced that Fatah al-Intifada is ready to relocate its military bases that are currently inside the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon to other locations outside of these camps to be determined by the Lebanese army. Abu Moussa also said that there was “a possibility of incorporating Palestinian arms in the frame of Lebanon’s defensive strategy.” This would mean that Palestinian arms would be akin to the resistance arms, in the same manner as the Hezbollah weaponry that is used against Israel. The Fatah al-Intifada Secretary-General also asked yesterday “why should our arms not be part of the defense strategy to protect Lebanon?” adding that Fatah al-Intifada “is part of the resistance in Lebanon.”
These statements come just days before the scheduled “National Dialogue on Defense Strategy” arranged by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman which is set to discuss Hezbollah and its arms, amongst other issues.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to former Hezbollah MP Hassan Hoballah and asked him if the movement was thinking about accepting Palestinian arms as a partner in the resistance against Israeli. Hoballah told Asharq Al-Awsat “we do not have to accept or reject the Fatah al-Intifada proposal of transferring its bases or participating in the resistance, for this is an agreement that takes place between the Lebanese state and the Palestinians, and we do not hold the position of the state. It is not the job of Hezbollah to organize the armed Palestinian presence in Lebanon.”
Hoballah added “there is an agreement reached by the Lebanese previously under which Palestinian arms are decided under the principle of dialogue, which is something that we encourage and support. And now the dialogue must continue…in order to find a suitable formula for everybody.”
Hoballah clarified the meaning of the term “defense strategy” which is set to be discussed at the Lebanese National Dialogue meeting on Monday, saying “the defense strategy means answering one question and that is; how can the Lebanese defend their country from danger? The ministerial statement today considers the people the resistance and the army, as being one in defending Lebanon. We will join together as a Lebanese force to discuss the defense strategy in order to reach a [defense] formula.”
As for Hezbollah’s view on the Palestinian arms, Hoballah told Asharq Al-Awsat “the Palestinian resistance is the result of Israeli aggression, and there are [Palestinian] refugees in Lebanon, we support their return [to Palestine] and support Lebanese defense against re-settlement. We reject rewarding the Israeli enemy for their aggression by helping them to resettle those who were thrown out of their land.”
Hoballah added “there are armed factions in Lebanon, and we will not perform any free service to the enemy [to allow them] to say to the Palestinians: give up your weapons and relax. Hezbollah believes that all of these issues will be resolved at the dialogue table in the interests of the Palestinians and the Lebanese.”
It seemed yesterday as if a rift was emerging between the Palestinian factions [in Lebanon] on the issue of Palestinian arms being transferred outside of the refugee camps, and Abu Ramez Mustafa, an official in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command [PFLP–GC] in Lebanon said that “the PFLP-GC is not involved in what Colonel Abu Moussa said with regards to his readiness to transfer Palestinian weapons outside of the Palestinian refugee camps to locations specified by the Lebanese army.”
He added that “the weapons are subject to discussion at the dialogue which will discuss all issues relating to the Palestinian file…from security, political, and social issues to the rights of the Palestinian refugees, and we will commit ourselves to whatever is agreed upon with our Lebanese brothers in line with the interests of the two peoples, the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples.”
However an official in the northern Lebanon PFLP-GC leadership, Abu Adnan Hamouda, denied that there was any disagreement between Fatah al-Intifada and the PFLP-GC and he told Asharq Al-Awsat that “all of the factions raise the subject of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon and the humanitarian, security, and political issues [concerned with this] in a comprehensive dialogue, and we are ready to implement what is agreed upon at the dialogue.” He said that Abu Moussa’s words were taken out of context in order to suggest the presence of a dispute between the Palestinian factions.
Prior to his departure from Lebanon to Kuwait, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hairiri told the Kuwaiti News Agency [KUNA] that “the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are our brothers” however he added “those who want to break the law will be held responsible” recalling the decision taken by Lebanon to address the Fatah al-Islam group who broke the law in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
Hariri also revealed his intention to call on the Palestinian leadership that are operating military bases outside of the refugee camps and inform them clearly and explicitly that “Lebanon is responsible for the security of the Palestinian [in Lebanon].” He added “We, as Lebanese, also have a responsibility, to secure the refugees a decent life.”