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Palestinian Islamists seek accord with Shiite groups

Palestinian carry on with their lives at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, Monday, March 3, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and Palestinian Islamist factions in Lebanon are putting the finishing touches to a Memorandum of Understanding to defuse tension between the two communities they represent and prevent strife, a source involved in the talks told The Daily Star. The MoU with Hezbollah and Amal is the outcome of an initiative put forth by Islamic Jihad and will be also signed by Hamas, Osbat al-Ansar and Sheikh Jamal Khattab – the spiritual leader of Islamist groups inside the south Lebanon camp of Ain al-Hilweh.

Tensions between Hezbollah and Amal on the one hand and Palestinian Islamist factions on the other mounted recently in light of glaring disparities over the conflict in neighboring Syria and the string of terrorist attacks that have hit areas where Hezbollah and Amal enjoy wide support.

The source explained that the objective of the new agreement was “to prevent strife between the resistance and the Palestinian camps,” adding that the MoU also served the larger purpose of averting Sunni-Shiite tensions.

“Working to prevent Sunni-Shiite strife and rejecting Takfiri groups are the main highlights of the MoU,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The relationship between the Amal Movement and Palestinian factions has been far from exemplary, with frictions dating back to the years of Lebanon’s Civil War, when between 1985 and 1987 Amal engaged in clashes against several Palestinian camps in Beirut, in a conflict that was dubbed the War of the Camps.

Today, however, the two sides are adamant to overcome past and current wounds, with Amal and Hezbollah pledging as part of the MoU to work on helping Palestinians acquire their rights in Lebanon, the source said.

The source also disclosed that, as part of efforts to manage the conditions of Palestinians in their host countries, Hamas has been sending messages to the Syrian administration in a bid to reestablish former ties.

The relationship between Hamas and Damascus greatly suffered and the group abandoned its headquarters there shortly after the unrest in Syria erupted some three years ago.

In a bid to mend fences with the regime of Bashar Assad, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is expected to pay a visit to Tehran in the near future, the source added.

At the local level, the document between Lebanon’s Shiite duo and the Palestinian groups “greatly contributes in defusing internal tensions inside Ain al-Hilweh,” the source argued.

Clashes between Islamist factions and the Fatah Movement are a regular occurrence in the impoverished and over-populated camp.

According to the source, the camp is still sheltering Lebanese singer Fadel Shaker, who alongside firebrand Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir and their militias fought pitched battles with the Lebanese Army in the summer of 2013 that killed more than 20 soldiers along with 28 gunmen loyal to Assir.

Assir himself is in an area on Lebanon’s northern border with Syria, the source added.

But the source revealed that the real danger threatening security and stability inside Ain al-Hilweh was internal rather than external, explaining that it was directly connected to divisions that formed within the Fatah Movement in light of the rift between President Mahmoud Abbas and the former senior Fatah official Mohammad Dahlan. Dahlan still enjoys influence over many Fatah officials within Lebanon.

Last year, the Fatah Movement expelled Dahlan’s so-called right arm in Lebanon, Mahmoud “Lino” Issa, the man who once led the now disbanded Armed Struggle unit in Ain al-Hilweh.

Separately, the source noted that Salafist groups in the northern city of Tripoli were looking to forge an agreement with Hezbollah after the mood of reconciliation prevailing in the region pushed several of their allies and financiers to sever ties with them.

“For now, Hezbollah is taking its time to respond to the Salafist advances,” said the source.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 17, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and Palestinian Islamist factions in Lebanon are putting the finishing touches to a Memorandum of Understanding to defuse tension between the two communities they represent and prevent strife, a source involved in the talks told The Daily Star. The MoU with Hezbollah and Amal is the outcome of an initiative put forth by Islamic Jihad and will be also signed by Hamas, Osbat al-Ansar and Sheikh Jamal Khattab – the spiritual leader of Islamist groups inside the south Lebanon camp of Ain al-Hilweh.

Tensions between Hezbollah and Amal on the one hand and Palestinian Islamist factions on the other mounted recently in light of glaring disparities over the conflict in neighboring Syria and the string of terrorist attacks that have hit areas where Hezbollah and Amal enjoy wide support.

Today, however, the two sides are adamant to overcome past and current wounds, with Amal and Hezbollah pledging as part of the MoU to work on helping Palestinians acquire their rights in Lebanon, the source said.


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