AIN AL-HILWEH, Lebanon: Tensions soared in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp Sunday, after a member of an influential family was shot dead by two masked men in the early hours of the morning.
Palestinian Wissam Abulkil was standing near his taxi at the entrance to the camp’s vegetable market around 7 a.m. when two masked men appeared from a nearby alley. They shot him twice, in the chest and the head, and then fled the scene.
Abulkil was rushed to the Nidaa al-Insani Hospital in the camp and then to Labib Hospital in Sidon, where he died of his wounds.
Upon hearing the news of his death, dozens of angry family members took to the streets demanding the arrest of the perpetrators and burning tires to block the roads leading to Abulkil’s home.
After the incident, the follow-up committee of national and religious Palestinian factions held a meeting in the camp’s cultural center. The committee denounced the attack and established an investigative team to find the perpetrators. It stressed that all Palestinians in Lebanon were united against attempts to disrupt stability in the camp.
“The assassination of Wissam Abulkil aims to incite civil strife and undermine the security and the stability of the refugee camp,” the committee’s secretary Abed Maqdah said.
“Wissam had nothing to do with any of the factions; he was a pure soul,” he added.
“We consider those who carried out this assassination to be conspiring against the security and stability of the camp,” he said. “We call on all the Palestinian groups to bear their responsibilities during this critical time in Ain al-Hilweh and we demand a fair punishment for whoever is behind this despicable crime.”
“Why was this crime committed now? Who is responsible? And why are attempts to incite civil strife being undertaken from one neighborhood against another in Ain al-Hilweh?” he asked. “We should follow up on the issue until the perpetrators are apprehended.”
A delegation from the committee later visited Abulkil’s home to offer condolences to the family and inform them of their decision.
The Abulkil family also issued a statement denouncing the crime.
“We want justice but we don’t want it by our own hands. We are capable of it, but we don’t want to do it this way because this is just an attempt to cause civil strife,” said the head of Abulkil’s family, Abu Saged Abulkil. “However, we demand that the leaders of Palestinian factions deliver justice for ourselves and our son.”
A Palestinian source told The Daily Star: “The assassination of Abulkil and the previous assassinations and security incidents are continuous attempts by the same party to incite civil strife that could go beyond the red line and lead to large-scale fighting in the camp.”
“The national and religious groups must uphold their responsibilities to calm the situation and exert their utmost efforts to discover the motive of this crime and pursue the perpetrators,” the source added.
The incident breaks a spell of relative calm in the camp since the beginning of the year.
Last year, however, was marked by a number of similar killings, prompting questions over whether a certain party was trying to disturb the peace among different Palestinian factions in the camp.
In early December, Fatah member Mohammad Abdel-Hamid, also known as Mohammad al-Saadi, and two Popular Front to Liberate Palestine member Abed al-Youssef were shot dead south of the camp by a gunman. Five people, including a 14-year-old, were wounded when a bomb was then set off near Saadi’s funeral procession.