SIDON, Lebanon: The situation at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh was under control again Tuesday night following a weekend shooting incident involving members of the Fatah Movement and the disbanded radical Fatah al-Islam group.
Fatah Movement’s Mahmoud Sultan and a friend were left wounded after they were shot while leaving his house by someone believed to belong to what was formerly Fatah al-Islam. Sultan’s condition is stable and his life is not in danger, sources said.
The attempted murder has returned the camp to the spotlight after several weeks of relative quiet.
Around a month and a half ago, sporadic clashes erupted in the camp between the followers of Bilal Badr, who led Fatah al-Islam, and supporters of Talal al-Urduni from Fatah.
The fighting led Palestinian factions to take a decision to create a 150-member elite force responsible for maintaining security within the camp. But infighting between the factions over certain appointments has delayed the force’s deployment, which was supposed to be before Ramadan began over the weekend.
Tuesday’s shooting incident has restored fears that the fragile situation in the camp is on the verge of a complete breakdown.
“What happened was an assassination attempt by people that don’t want a security force to control the station in the camp,” said the Fatah Movement’s secretary in Sidon Brig. Maher Shabayta.
Shabayta insisted there were parties working on instigating problems among the different factions. Having discussed the upcoming deployment with PLO members joining the security forces to work in the camp, the Fatah official emphasized that security was an important issue.
Fears of security woes in the biggest refugee camp for Palestinians in Lebanon weren’t limited only to the shooting. The recent uproar caused by the posters and banners hung around the camp by members of the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have also heightened tensions.
Although the Palestinian factions have denied the allegiance of some of the camp’s Islamic groups to ISIS, rumors have spread regardless.
Palestinian security sources told The Daily Star that the chaos caused by the ISIS banners and posters in Ain al-Hilweh wasn’t entirely accurate as Islamic flags were hung around the camp by lots of different groups.
The sources also said discussions had been occurring on social media websites about a banner in one of the camp’s neighborhoods congratulating Muslims for the beginning of Ramadan on behalf of ISIS.
The Palestinian sources said they believed the focus on the camp was aimed at linking some of the Ain al-Hilweh’s numerous Islamic groups with events happening outside the borders, such as ISIS’ recent victories in Iraq and the civil war in Syria.
However, these are far from the first rumors about the presence of Islamic groups in Ain al-Hilweh, with some even claiming extremist Syrian rebel group the Nusra Front has a branch in the camp, something which has since been proved wrong.
Sources monitoring the fragile political and security reality in the camp suggested the renewed attention on the camp could be to pressure its Islamic groups into revealing their true feelings about ISIS, its ideology and actions, and that security forces could be looking for any kind of interaction between the groups and ISIS.