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Beirut warns Palestinians: End infighting in refugee camp

At least 12 people have been killed and 50 wounded in Ain al-Hilweh.

A street in the Ain al-Hilweh camp in Lebanon, Aug. 1, 2014. Photo by Nadine Kheshen via Wikimedia Commons.
A street in the Ain al-Hilweh camp in Lebanon, Aug. 1, 2014. Photo by Nadine Kheshen via Wikimedia Commons.

The Lebanese Armed Forces may be forced to intervene and restore order in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, Lebanese interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati has warned Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

During a phone call, Lebanon’s prime minister reportedly told Abbas to put an immediate end to the hostilities in the Ain al-Hilweh camp. The statement, cited by the Associated Press on Thursday, called the internecine fighting a “flagrant violation of Lebanese sovereignty.”

Mikati added that it was “unacceptable” for warring Palestinian groups to “terrorize the Lebanese, especially the people of the South who have embraced the Palestinians for many years,” according to the wire service.

Ain al-Hilweh, southeast of the port city of Sidon, has been the scene of violent clashes between rival Palestinian factions in recent days.

Hostilities broke out over the weekend after an unidentified gunman attempted to assassinate Junud al-Sham militant Mahmoud Khalil, killing one of his companions instead.

Islamists then retaliated by assassinating Abu Ashraf al-Armouchi, a leader in Abbas’s Fatah Party, as well as three of his escorts. According to the AP, rival factions used assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers as innocents fled the crossfire.

At least 12 people, including one civilian, have been killed so far, while 50 others sustained injuries, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency said on Thursday. Hundreds more have fled the camp, which the U.N. claims is home to some 55,000 “refugees.”

Efforts to broker a durable ceasefire have repeatedly failed. One key sticking point is Fatah’s demand that Junud al-Sham hand over the gunmen responsible for killing Al-Armouchi.

On Wednesday, P.A. representative in Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour met with the commander of the Lebanese military, Gen. Joseph Aoun, to discuss “developments in the camps and attempts to secure a new ceasefire.”

Moreover, Arab media said that Hamas terror master Ismail Haniyeh contacted Mikati, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and Lebanese Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, urging them to enforce a truce.

In his message to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization, Haniyeh stressed Hamas’s “keenness on security and stability at the camp and its neighborhood,” adding that “Palestinian arms should only be pointed at the Zionist enemy [Israel].

“The decisions taken by Palestinian authorities should be respected, especially by the Joint Palestinian Action Committee, and in full coordination with the relevant Lebanese official authorities, in terms of not resorting to arms, ceasing fire permanently, withdrawing gunmen from the streets and giving the inquiry panel a chance to perform its role in probing the crimes that happened,” said Haniyeh.

Under a long-standing status quo, the Lebanese army does not enter any of the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Instead, the camps are policed by various Palestinian groups.

Palestinians in Lebanon face numerous legal and social challenges. Lebanese law prohibits them from working in most professions, owning or inheriting property, or becoming naturalized citizens. They are also denied access to Lebanese health care and rely on UNRWA clinics for medical services.

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