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Fears mount as Fatah funeral convoy targeted
Gunmen gather around the car damaged as a result of the explosion in Ain el-Hilweh, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
Gunmen gather around the car damaged as a result of the explosion in Ain el-Hilweh, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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SIDON, Lebanon: Fears mounted Tuesday that the security situation would further deteriorate in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh after a bomb exploded near the funeral procession of a Fatah member and wounded five people, including a 14-year-old.

The bomb exploded behind a wall on a road leading to a cemetery in Darb al-Seem, seconds before the funeral convoy of Mohammad Abdel-Hamid arrived, security sources told The Daily Star.

A 14-year-old boy, Ibrahim Sarha, was wounded in the explosion along with the bodyguard of Fatah official Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Issa, better known as Lino, who took part in the funeral procession, and two other people. The bodyguard was identified as Saleh Dib.

Sources at the camp said the funeral convoy slowed down after gunshots were heard. The explosion occurred seconds afterward.

Abdel-Hamid – also known as Mohammad al-Saadi – and Abed al-Youssef, member of the Popular Front to Liberate Palestine, were shot south of the camp by a gunman Sunday.

Saadi was shot in the chest and later died of his wounds when he was transferred to Al-Rai Hospital in Sidon. Youssef died of his wounds hours after getting shot Sunday night.

The explosion, which also damaged a parked vehicle, raised tensions in the camp as Palestinian leaders immediately made contacts to contain the situation amid fears of a deteriorating security situation.

“The explosion could have caused a massacre if it hit the funeral procession, had it not slowed down,” said Maher Shabayta, the secretary of the Fatah Movement.

Speaking to The Daily Star, Shabayta said that the teenage boy’s leg had been amputated, adding that “the boy was [suspiciously] too close to the site of the explosion.”

“The injury of Lino’s bodyguard is not critical ... three others were slightly wounded and were not taken to a hospital,” he added.

The Palestinian National and Islamic Forces released a statement later Tuesday condemning the explosion, saying it sought to threaten the stability of the camp, as well as the Palestinian cause and refugees’ right to return to their land.

“[Ending] these repeated crimes, that continue without end, is everyone’s responsibility, leaders and the masses, and so everyone must do their part in uncovering the identities of the perpetrators, especially as the killings are becoming an unprecedented trend, targeting even the dead and those who mourn them,” the statement said.

It went on to say that the explosion sought to destabilize the camp, and the perpetrator could not be one of its residents. “The criminal who committed this crime is not a person belonging to the camp, but it is a foreigner who has a project targeting the Palestinian cause and the right of return.”

A general strike will take place in the refugee camp Wednesday to protest against the attack.

The camp has witnessed a series of security incidents over the past few months, during which several of Lino’s bodyguards were targeted with gunfire. Fatah demoted Lino in October after a group of officers affiliated with him accused the movement of corruption.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 04, 2013, on page 3.
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