SIDON, Lebanon: Palestinian factions and the 150-member elite force responsible for maintaining security inside the troubled Ain al-Hilweh camp in south Lebanon held their first meeting Wednesday, within days of expected deployment.
Fatah official Col. Khaled Shayeb, heading the force, and representatives of the Palestinian factions were present at the meeting, which was preceded by a military parade boasting the force’s arsenal outside the Ziyad al-Atrash Hall.
The meeting was devoted to discussing the force’s deployment and distribution of its members. It was decided that 40 members would carry out patrols and escorts, 30 for intervention or executive forces, 20 for social security, 35 for traffic, 25 prison guards and members of the inquiry committee, as well as members of the investigation and information committee, the technical team, the committee on social reform, awareness and guidance, as well as financial management.
According to a high-ranking Fatah official, the forces’ headquarters would be at the Ziad al-Atrash Hall and would include a prison.
He also told The Daily Star that the force would be deployed on Ain al-Hilweh’s main streets, specifically in areas that have witnessed significant security incidents such as the vegetable market, the Safsaf neighborhood, Fatah’s offices at the camp’s main entrance and the Jabal al-Halib area east of the camp.
Sporadic clashes recently erupted in Ain al-Hilweh between the radical Fatah al-Islam group and supporters of the Fatah Movement.
The fighting led Palestinian factions to create a 150-member elite force responsible for maintaining security within the camp. But infighting between the factions over appointments delayed the deployment, which was supposed to have begun before Ramadan.
The Fatah official stressed that separate meetings were set to be held with every unit to discuss the mission, after which another meeting with leaders would be held to announce the deployment date.
Osbat al-Ansar’s spokesman Abu Sharif Aql said after the meeting that the security force would be different from its predecessors in terms of preparedness, numbers and duty.
“We offer assurances that this security force, which we are putting the final touches on before launching, is for all the Palestinian people in order to maintain security in the camp and its neighboring areas,” Aql said at a news conference.
“It is not directed against anyone, but at the same time we will not allow anyone to target it or tamper with the security of the camp or the security of the people.”
Aql stressed that the delay had spawned from the desire of the factions to launch an “exceptional force,” adding that deployment was imminent following logistical preparations.
For his part, Ali Barakeh, a Hamas official in Lebanon, stressed Wednesday that the joint Palestinian security force was set to deploy in Ain al-Hilweh within the next few days.
“Regarding the Palestinian situation in Lebanon, we have confirmed that the joint security force will deploy within days in Ain al-Hilweh and there is a unified Palestinian decision to maintain security and stability in the camps with the cooperation of the Lebanese state,” Barakeh said.
His statement came after visits with Sidon officials and a Hamas delegation including its representative in Sidon, Abu Ahmad Fadel.
Barakeh met with Sidon Mufti Sheikh Salim Sousan and former Sidon Mayor Abdel-Rahman al-Bizri. Discussions entailed the current situation in Ain al-Hilweh and the importance of maintaining stability.
They also included the latest developments in Palestine in light of Israel’s bombardment of dozens of sites in the Gaza Strip and a crackdown in the West Bank over the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens.
“We have stressed the right of the Palestinian people to face the [Israeli] occupation, and it is their right to do whatever they can to ensure the release of the prisoners and detainees in the Zionist occupation’s prisons, whose numbers have exceeded 5,700 prisoners,” Barakeh said.
He added that there was a need for Arab and Muslim unity regarding the Palestinian cause and the resistance in Palestine “as there is no salvation for our nation and there is no salvation to our Palestinian people except through facing the Zionist occupation on our land.”
For his part, Sousan also stressed the importance of maintaining Palestinian unity in the face of Israeli aggression, and the importance of strengthening the camps.
“Sidon will always remain supportive of these people [the Palestinians] and their rightful and just cause,” he added.