Friday, June 21, 2024

Deadly fighting continues in Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, 15 killed so far

At least six people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded in fresh clashes in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian camp, the Palestinian Red Crescent’s Lebanon branch has confirmed, taking the death toll to 15 since fighting broke out on September 7.

Clashes intensified on Wednesday as a ceasefire fell apart in Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp on the outskirts of the southern port city of Sidon. Scores of civilians have been forced to flee to safer areas as multiple ceasefire agreements have failed to hold.

The refugee camp has been rocked by violence since last week with members of the Fatah movement, which controls the camp, fighting armed fighters, excluding Hamas.

Fatah and other allied factions had intended to crack down on suspects accused of killing a senior Fatah military official in the camp in late July. The first round of fighting then left more than a dozen people dead.

A top official with the Palestinian group Hamas, Moussa Mohammed Abu Marzouk, arrived in Beirut on Tuesday to push for an end to clashes with no success.

He met Palestinian officials, including Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad, late on Tuesday at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut, a joint statement said.

They had expressed their “full commitment to consolidating the ceasefire” and agreed to “work to facilitate the return of those forced from their homes”.

But the ceasefire collapsed on Wednesday, causing a mass exodus of residents fleeing bullets and shells.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has said the fighting has displaced hundreds of families.

Many have taken shelter in nearby mosques, schools, and the Sidon municipality building. UNRWA has relocated some 1,200 people to schools in the area from a mosque near the camp’s entrance.

Ein el-Hilweh – one of 12 refugee camps scattered around Lebanon – is home to some 55,000 registered refugees, according to the United Nations.

By long-standing convention, the Lebanese army stays out of the Palestinian camps and leaves the factions to handle security.

The renewed violence has prompted fresh concerns that the clashes could spill over into the adjacent city of Sidon.

Residents fear a similar scenario to the northern Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared, where Lebanon’s army waged a deadly 15-week onslaught to dislodge armed groups in 2007.

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