Lebanon News

Fatah-Hamas disputes delay Ain al-Hilweh force

Boys carry a fake gun as they play in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, Monday, June 9, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari) =

SIDON, Lebanon: Ramadan kicks off this weekend without deployment of elite security forces in Sidon’s Ain al-Hilweh camp, a long standing promise yet to be fulfilled by the Palestinian factions.

Speaking to The Daily Star, sources familiar with the issue explained that there were disputes among the Palestinian factions in charge of forming the forces, saying Hamas and Fatah in particular had major disagreements.

Talk about forming a local elite security force comprised of the camp’s various factions has been ongoing for at least a month. After clashes and attacks at the camp the factions agreed on forming the force to maintain stability and security.

With the latest developments in Iraq and Syria, efforts were boosted to deploy the forces.

But Fatah and Hamas are at odds over identifying officers to supervise the security force’s work. Hamas, which approved the expenses needed to form the forces, was seeking to have an upper hand in controlling them, as Fatah is not capable of financing the operation equally.

The sources also added other disagreements are on the rise between Fatah and the Islamic factions.

The factions have objected to the Fatah Movement’s nomination of an officer, who’s an unpopular member.

Consequently, the movement has responded in a similar manner, stating they would not agree to the officers nominated by the factions.

Palestinian security sources explained that the Al-Shabab al-Muslim, comprised of Jund al-Sham and Fatah al-Islam, has said it was opposed to having security forces stationed close to its operating areas.

The factions’ failure to form the force before the start of Ramadan compelled Azzam al-Ahmad, the Palestinian Authority’s official in charge of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, to cancel a scheduled visit to Ain al-Hilweh. Ahmad is currently visiting Lebanon.

Earlier in the day, Ahmad participated in a ceremony for those who completed Fatah’s military unit training at Tyre’s Palestinian refugee camp Rashidieh, after which point he and PLO senior official in Lebanon Fathi Abu al-Ardat met with Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi.

Earlier this week, Ahmad expressed keenness and anticipation for the launching of the force.

“Coordination is meant to preserve security in the camps and prevent any attack on Lebanon’s internal security by forces that are foreign to both Lebanon and Palestine,” he said Wednesday.

Sources told The Daily Star that before canceling his visit, Ahmad was supposed to follow up on the final touches of the elite forces intended to be spread across various Palestinian refugee camps.

Lately, Palestinian factions have been under pressure from official Lebanese authorities to launch the security forces. As the situation in Ain al-Hilweh camp remains fragile, Lebanese security sources urged Palestinian factions to find a firm and serious solution.

Quoting the Lebanese authorities, the sources told The Daily Star that the authorities asked the factions to speedily deploy the forces.

The sources concluded that the Lebanese security agencies have told Palestinian factions that they were fully responsible for any delays. The factions have also been advised to refrain from delaying the nomination of officers, as this would not bode well for the camp.

Away from security concerns, tense areas in Ain al-Hilweh were decorated to celebrate Ramadan.

The vegetables market, one of the camp’s main areas that witnessed clashes, was reopened in the presence of representatives of different Palestinian factions. Lights and decorations filled the place.

“We thank those working at the souk,” said Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Issa, a senior Fatah official, better known as Lino.

“They were the ones calling for stability and security to be spread across the camp.”

Although residents remain resilient against the threat of security incidents, many said they would not feel at peace until the elite forces patrol their streets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 28, 2014, on page 3.




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