Clashes erupt at Palestinian camp in Lebanon

By Tamer Abu Zeid in Beirut


Lebanese and Palestinian forces are working together to contain clashes that broke out in Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp in the southern outskirts of Beirut. [Photo courtesy of Shatila camp network on Facebook]

Clashes broke out a few days ago in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila on the southern outskirts of Beirut, following a decade-long period of calm at the camp, officials told Al-Mashareq.

The incident brings to the fore the issue of the control and withdrawal of weapons from the camps, as per UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of 2006.

The resolution called for a full cessation of hostilities south of the Litani River and for the Lebanese government and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) "to deploy their forces together throughout the south".

It helped Lebanon assert its sovereignty by deploying its own forces and paved the way for the withdrawal of non-Lebanese military weapons from these areas.

Sabra and Shatila camps are home to about 20,000 Palestinian refugees.

Fierce battles involving machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) broke out between groups headed by Belal Akr and Mohammed Badran.

Akr, who is considered dangerous and is wanted on numerous charges, was killed in the clashes, which broke out after he tried to gain control of parts of the camp, along with Samir Badran of the rival group and an 8-year-old girl.

Akr has been accused of belonging to a terrorist gang, stirring up sedition, destabilising civil peace, attempting to kill, dealing in drugs, opening fire from a weapon, resisting security forces and engaging in theft.

Lebanese army units immediately deployed around the camp, conducting foot and mobile patrols and co-ordinating with Palestinian leaders in order to get the situation under control.

Joint commitment to security

Communications are ongoing between the Palestinian factions and the Lebanese security forces "to control the situation and prevent it from spreading and expanding outside the camp", said Lebanese MP Qassim Hashem.

"Lebanon's national security is linked to the security of camps, which are located on Lebanese soil," said Hashem, who is a member of the parliamentary Development and Liberation Bloc.

"Concerned Palestinian groups must deal with [the situation in the camps] as part of the relations which have been charted by Lebanon's military institution and security forces," he told Al-Mashareq.

In the meantime, the issue of Palestinian refugees and camps in Lebanon was raised at a meeting between Lebanon's Interior Minister Nohad al-Machnouk and Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour.

The two sides explored ways to enhance joint action and co-ordination.

In a statement obtained by Al-Mashareq, Dabbour stressed the "Palestinian commitment to stability and security in Lebanon and to the enhancement and development of the Lebanese-Palestinian relations".

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