SIDON, Lebanon: Surveillance cameras have become routine for Palestinians residing in the Ain al-Hilweh camp in the southern city of Sidon.
Dozens of cameras have been installed outside the headquarters and offices of political parties and are now a means for discovering those behind a number of crimes, including the recent killing of Fatah member Mohammad Abdel-Hamid. While Palestinian security forces were busy examining the contents of surveillance tapes to identify Abdel-Hamid, known as Mohammad al-Saadi, others were installing new cameras along streets and alleyways, even outside the homes of residents, to record suspicious movements.
Saadi and Popular Front to Liberate Palestine member Abed al-Youssef were shot south of the camp by a gunman Sunday, who was reportedly wearing a hat that covered half of his face.
Saadi was shot in the chest and later died of his wounds when he was transferred to Al-Rai Hospital in Sidon.
Abu Alaa, one of the military investigators at the camp, told The Daily Star that while the cameras have been helpful, some individuals who own the equipment have refused to cooperate with authorities, claiming the devices were faulty and unable to record.
Many Palestinians voiced fears that Saadi’s killing was a deliberate attempt to provoke strife in the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and that it would serve as a catalyst for retaliatory actions.
Fady Ismail, a lieutenant with the Fatah Movement, told The Daily Star that the culprit had already been identified but that certain individuals were protecting him.
“Today is the age of assassinations,” Ismail said. “I call on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to change the minds of petty leaders and I say to him, do you know that every home in the camp has four martyrs who were assassinated?”
Saadi’s family refused to bury his body until his assassin was held accountable, as his relatives and family members temporarily blocked the road around the site of his shooting in protest.
Saadi’s family said in a statement that political cover should not protect those responsible for the shooting and that the culprits should be handed over to security and judicial authorities.
Saadi’s relative Abu Rabih al-Saadi said the investigative committee and political leadership “should shoulder its responsibilities, as the issue involves the camp in its entirety.”
He also said that the surveillance tapes currently being studied were those located in the area where the shooting occurred.
According to Saadi, the committee had also been able to retrieve the shooter’s motorcycle.
Tensions were high overnight Sunday after shots were fired and grenades tossed in anger over Saadi’s death, keeping the camp’s residents up until the early hours, when intermittent firing could still be heard.
Many shop owners closed their businesses Monday out of fear that the situation would escalate, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees-affiliated schools also closed their doors, as did its offices and clinics.
The Palestinian National Security Forces held an emergency meeting to discuss developments relating to Saadi’s killing, condemning the act of violence and claiming that outside forces were responsible.
It was decided at the meeting that a committee would be formed, representing different Palestinian factions, to assemble information related to the killing and compile a witness list as well as review surveillance tapes.
Sheikh Jamal Khattab, secretary of the Islamist forces at the camp, said it was obvious that the security and safety of Ain al-Hilweh was being targeted, stressing that such a killing was indicative of a “clear involvement of foreign projects targeting the Palestinian cause.”
Khattab added that the investigative committee would pursue the issue.
For his part, Maj. Gen. Sobhi Abu Arab, commander of Palestinian National Security, said that there were individuals trying to breach the camp’s security and inciting strife.
“Events happening in Lebanon are affecting the camp,” Abu Arab said.
“Clues in the case have been uncovered, and we hope to get to the bottom of it and identify the culprit, who should pay the price whoever he may be. We at this camp want security and stability,” he said.
Fuad Othman, head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also said it was clear that there was an “attempt to drag Palestinian camps in Lebanon, and especially Ain al-Hilweh, which represents political diversity, into internal conflicts and conflicts with the Lebanese.”
Also Monday, Sidon MP Bahia Hariri met with Army Intelligence chief for the south Brig. Ali Shahrour at her Majdalyoun residence to discuss the latest security developments in Sidon.
Hariri has been following up on the incident in Ain al-Hilweh and has kept contact with a number of Palestinian leaders in the camp.
The Sidon MP praised efforts to contain the situation after the killing and to prevent attempts to drag the camp into further conflict.
Afaf Tamim, mother of three disabled children, told The Daily Star that she has had to flee her home for a safer place during the recurrent clashes in the camp.
“We want a solution, we want security,” she said.
Mohammad Zeidan, who was playing with his friends in the camp, said he missed school Monday because of the shooting.
“We are used to it,” he said. “Every day someone dies.”