Two dead in Ein al-Hilweh fighting

Fierce fighting in Ein al-Hilweh, the most populous Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, left two dead, including a child, before a ceasefire was declared on Tuesday afternoon.

Arafat Mustafa Sahyoun, 12, was injured by a sniper’s bullet and died of his injuries. A youth identified as Maher Dahsheh, 18, was also killed by sniper fire.

Video is said to show Dahsheh being evacuated after his injury:

A pregnant woman was also reported injured, as well as a United Nations employee.

Heavy gunfire

Clashes between Palestinian forces and militant Islamists broke out late Monday night when a bomb detonated in front of a call center in the camp.

Video shows explosions in the camp and the sound of heavy gunfire:

A truce had been declared on Sunday night after violence in the camp left three injured over the weekend.

Those clashes forced the closure of schools and health facilities run by UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees.

Maher Dahsheh (via Ein al-Hilweh Capital of the Diaspora)

“Recurrent armed violence continues to impact the civilian population in the camp, including children,” UNRWA stated on Tuesday.

The fighting on Tuesday prompted civilians to flee Ein al-Hilweh, as well as the closure of schools and universities outside of the camp, located near the southern coastal city of Sidon.

A general strike is to be held in Sidon on Wednesday in protest of the violence.

Security

In addition to the ceasefire reached during a meeting at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut, Palestinian factions agreed to form a new joint security force, Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported.

Palestinian factions which control Ein al-Hilweh are under pressure to turn in to Lebanese security forces wanted Islamists who are hiding out in the camp. The camp is off-limits to Lebanese security forces, who operate checkpoints to control movement in and out of Ein al-Hilweh.

The Daily Star reported that the latest episode of fighting in Ein al-Hilweh coincided with a visit to the camp by the wife of Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, as well as a three-day visit to Lebanon by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Arafat Mustafa Sahyoun (via Friends of Ein al-Hilweh Camp)

Dahlan’s wife “reportedly seeks to increase the man’s influence among Ein al-Hilweh’s Fatah loyalists at the expense of mainstream Fatah commanders who follow [Abbas],” the paper added.

Abbas discussed security arrangements in the camps with Lebanese counterparts, but did not visit any camps while he was in the country, angering Palestinian refugees who live in dire socioeconomic conditions.

Fears of displacement

There were some 450,000 Palestinian refugees in the country as of July 2014, but the populations of camps like Ein al-Hilweh have swelled with an influx of people displaced by the ongoing war in Syria.

The Lebanese army is currently building a wall around Ein al-Hilweh. The project was briefly halted after protests at the end of last year, but now the wall is reportedly 70 percent complete.

The latest fighting in the camp has stoked fears that Ein al-Hilweh may suffer the same fate as Nahr al-Bared, a Palestinian camp in the north of the country that was destroyed in 2007 during fighting between the Lebanese army and Islamist groups that had infiltrated the camp.

As of October 2016, reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared was incomplete and nearly 29,000 residents remained displaced, according to UNRWA.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.