Clashes continue between factions in Palestinian camp in Lebanon as death toll climbs to 6

AP , Monday 31 Jul 2023

Clashes continued for a third day in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon on Monday between members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group and Islamist factions there.

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Smoke billows during clashes between Fatah movement and Islamists inside the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp, Lebanon s largest Palestinian refugee camp, in the southern coastal city of Sidon on July 31, 2023. AFP

 

A Lebanese army spokesperson said the death toll from the fighting in Ein el-Hilweh camp had reached six, although some reports have given higher figures. Two soldiers stationed outside the camp were lightly wounded, Col. Fadi Abou Eid said.

Despite attempts by Lebanese parties and some of the Palestinian factions to broker a cease-fire, “the shooting and shelling have not stopped in the camp until this moment,” said Adnan Rifai, a member of the popular committee that serves as a governing body in the camp.

The Lebanese army mans a checkpoint outside and typically does not enter the camp, which is under the control of the Palestinian factions.

The clashes erupted on Sunday after Islamic militants shot and killed a Palestinian military general from the Fatah group, Abu Ashraf al Armoushi, and three escorts as they were walking through a parking lot, according to another Palestinian. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to the media.

On Saturday, an unknown gunman had tried to kill militant Mahmoud Khalil but instead fatally shot his companion.

Later on Sunday, Palestinian factions said in a joint statement that they had agreed to a cease-fire during a mediation meeting hosted by the Lebanese Shia Amal movement and militant Hezbollah group in the city Sidon. But the cease-fire did not hold.

Some residents in Sidon neighborhoods near the camp fled their homes as stray bullets hit buildings and shattered windows and storefronts. The public Sidon General Hospital evacuated its staff and patients.

A Fatah statement condemned the killing of its security official, saying the attack was part of a “bloody scheme that targets the security and stability of our camps.” It vowed to hold the “perpetrators accountable.”

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Abbas both issued statements Sunday decrying the violence.

Lebanese lawmaker Osama Saad, who represents the Sidon area where the camp is located, told The Associated Press that officials are “making extraordinary efforts to find serious, effective, lasting and stable solutions to the situation inside the camp.”

Saad said he and other Lebanese officials and security forces would meet with the Palestinian factions on Monday to push for a cease-fire.

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