European, Gulf countries issue travel warnings to Lebanon amid Palestinian refugee camp clashes

Ahram Online , Yasmine Osama Farag , Monday 7 Aug 2023

Gulf countries, Germany, and the UK have warned against travel to Lebanon amid clashes in the largest Palestinian refugee camp Ein Al-Hilweh.

File Photo - Smoke rises during clashes between members of the Palestinian Fatah group and Islamist militants in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on July 30, 2023. AP

The fighting erupted on 30 July in Ein Al-Hilweh camp near the southern port city of Sidon between members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah group and militants of Islamic groups.

The clashes left 13 people dead, dozens wounded, and thousands displaced from the camp, which is home to more than 50,000 people.

The UAE issued a reminder of its travel ban to Lebanon.

“In order to preserve the safety of the country’s citizens, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stresses the importance of adhering to the previously issued decision to ban UAE citizens from travelling to Lebanon,” the ministry announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday.

Warnings continued on Sunday as more Gulf countries urged their citizens in Lebanon to stay vigilant and avoid areas of clashes.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar urged their nationals in Lebanon to avoid "areas of security disturbances.”

Last week, the UK updated its travel warning on Lebanon, advising against "all but essential travel" to parts of Lebanon’s south near Ain Al-Hilweh camp. Germany also warned citizens not to travel to Palestinian camps in Lebanon, among other areas.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati sought to reassure on Saturday Gulf nations that there was no cause for "concern or panic" about his country's security situation.

"Following discussions with military and security chiefs, the available information indicates that the security situation in general does not call for concern and panic and that the political and security contacts to address the Ain Al-Helweh camp clashes have made major progress," Mikati's press office said.

He also instructed caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib to "communicate with the Arab brothers to reassure them over the safety of their citizens in Lebanon."

On Thursday, Mikati called the Palestinian president to demand an end to the volatile situation in the camp, warning that Lebanese troops may intervene to stop the fighting.

Clashes between Palestinian factions at Ein Al-Hilweh camp have pitted members of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party against Islamist groups Jund Al-Sham and Shabab Al-Muslim accused of gunning down Palestinian military general Abu Ashraf Al-Armoushi.

 The violence began when an unknown gunman tried to kill Palestinian militant Mahmoud Khalil but instead fatally shot his companion. Clashes erupted on 30 July when Islamic militants shot and killed Armoushi and three escorts in a parking lot.

However, calm has since been restored to the camp, while Palestinian leadership sources have ruled out the spread of armed confrontations to other refugee camps in Lebanon.

According to leading Palestinian sources cited by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Anbaa, the situation in Ain Al-Hilweh camp is completely different from that in other Palestinian refugee camps, which enjoy security and tranquility. These camps are not connected to the events taking place in Ain Al-Hilweh, as their security is well maintained, the sources said.

They also described the events in Ain Al-Hilweh as a conspiracy against the camp and its peaceful residents. They accused "known external parties of conspiring against the camp and its inhabitants, tarnishing the image of those residing within it."


Short link: