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Ain al-Hilweh camp at a standstill after attacks
Geese take to the streets as schools and businesses closed their doors in the camp. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
Geese take to the streets as schools and businesses closed their doors in the camp. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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SIDON, Lebanon: Recent, successive security incidents in Ain al-Hilweh have cast a dark shadow over daily life for the residents of the Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Sidon. Schools and businesses closed their doors Wednesday after a bomb exploded a day earlier near the funeral procession of a Fatah member, wounding five people, including a 14-year-old. The camp responded by holding a general strike Wednesday in a solemn protest against the attack, as worries of more security incidents mounted.

The bomb exploded Tuesday behind a wall on a road leading to a cemetery in Darb al-Sim, seconds before the funeral convoy of Mohammad Abdel-Hamid arrived, security sources told The Daily Star. And earlier this week, gunmen shot dead two men – Abdel-Hamid, also known as Mohammad al-Saadi, and Abed al-Youssef, a member of the Popular Front to Liberate Palestine.

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

Fatah official Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Issa, better known as Lino, who took part in the funeral procession, said that he was the target of the explosion.

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

Palestinian sources said that the explosive was a 122 shell, which didn’t explode completely and if it had, would have caused many more casualties.

The Palestinian security forces questioned several residents near the site of the explosion and those who worked nearby in an attempt to identify the person or party that had planted the explosive.

A meeting was held at the headquarters of Ain al-Hilweh’s security forces that included different political factions and Islamist parties. Attendees agreed to hand over any wanted men and suspects in the recent security incidents and asked the joint security committee to reinforce its measures and deploy forces in all the streets of the camp in order to strengthen security and stability.

The security meeting also stressed its united stance to ensure the safety of Ain al-Hilweh, and rejected rumors that implicated residents of the camp in the recent incidents around the country.

Future MP from Sidon Bahia Hariri called the head of the national Palestinian security Maj. Gen. Sobhi Abu Arab to discuss the state of the situation in Ain al-Hilweh.

In a statement, she said the problems in the camps and the problems in the greater Lebanese community were deeply linked.

“What is happening in Ain al-Hilweh can’t be looked at separately from what is happening in Tripoli and other regions in Lebanon, which we consider linked to instances of tension and deteriorating security,” she said.

“The recent events in Ain al-Hilweh require all the Palestinians in this camp and other camps to be more cautious and vigilant regarding what we see as attempts to implicate them in the circle of violence.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 05, 2013, on page 4.
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