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Palestinian factions to sign security accord with Lebanese support

A boy peaks from among Fatah fighters parading during a ceremony in Ain al-Hilweh near Sidon, Sunday, May 13, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: The Palestinian Authority in Lebanon is putting the final touches on a memorandum of understanding aimed at insulating Palestinian refugee camps from Lebanese conflicts and the crisis in neighboring Syria.

If things go as planned, the memorandum will be announced during a news conference at the Palestinian Embassy and will be signed by Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and Lebanese Army officials.

The memorandum is the outcome of an initiative put forth by Islamic Jihad and will also be signed by Hamas, the Osbat al-Ansar group and Sheikh Jamal Khattab, the spiritual leader for Islamist groups inside Ain al-Hilweh.

Tensions between the two Lebanese Shiite groups and Palestinian Islamist factions have escalated recently as both sides have different, and at times conflicting, stances on the conflict in Syria and the terrorist attacks that have targeted areas associated with Hezbollah.

The text of the memorandum explains the causes that provoked the Palestinian factions to attempt to broker such an agreement.

“In accordance with God’s testaments, which order us to discard division and disputes among Muslims and requires us to seek unity and coherence among them to keep conflict away,” the text begins, “because we believe that Palestine is the only arena for jihad and the only place where the Palestinian rifle ought to be directed, and because we believe that all Muslims should unite in their efforts and join forces to confront the Zionist project in Palestine and liberate it fully to save the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and because we consider this the first priority above any other.”

Additional reasons prompting the memorandum were cited as the persistence of certain parties in implicating Palestinians in sectarian strife and fueling conflict with the Lebanese, as well as the need to consolidate Lebanese-Palestinian relations and to safeguard the security and stability of the Palestinian camps.

“The initiative was made to distance the Palestinians in Lebanon and protect Lebanese-Palestinian relations with this initial step, which is the start of a comprehensive Palestinian dialogue with the Lebanese government to find solutions to urgent political, security, legal and social issues concerning Palestinians, until they return to their homeland,” the text said.

The initiative aims not only to distance Palestinians from Lebanese conflicts but also to take precautions to protect the Palestinian identity and the right of return, namely by rejecting resettlement projects and supporting the unity of Lebanon, boosting Lebanese-Palestinian relations and supporting the Palestinian people in their resistance against Israel.

According to the Palestinian factions, certain policy items have already been agreed upon, in coordination with Lebanese partners, including the principle of confronting attempts to incite civil strife among Muslims in Lebanon. Also, control of the security situation in the camps will fall under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian factions, and their affiliated forces, especially in Ain al-Hilweh. Efforts will be made to boost security in the camps and remove political cover from those who are proven to be linked to security incidents.

Efforts will also be made by relevant parties to prevent Palestinian camps from becoming fertile ground for terrorist cells to launch attacks that could harm the Lebanese, the text of the MOU said, and individuals involved in such incidents will be prevented from taking refuge in the camps once the document is signed.

The Palestinian authorities, the document said, will also renounce participants who breach the substance of the agreement.

The Palestinian factions are seeking political, security and judicial cover from the Lebanese state to implement the initiative. The document also said that Lebanese parties should spare no efforts to protect the Palestinian people in Lebanon and their right of return.

The MOU emphasizes that a unified Palestinian leadership is necessary in Lebanon, so it can take direct responsibility, both politically and from a security standpoint, to oversee the initiative’s implementation.

Al-Ansar’s spokesperson Abdul-Sharif Aqel said despite the fact that the original MOU was launched by Islamic Jihad and Hamas, all Palestinian factions in Lebanon had adopted it, including Fatah.

“All Palestinian factions are part of this initiative, which aims at safeguarding the camps and the security in Lebanon, and Lebanese-Palestinian relations, so that Palestinians do not become an additional source of tension for the Lebanese,” he added.

The Palestinian factions also discussed the recent string of assassinations in Ain al-Hilweh and a means to curb such operations.

The Daily Star has also learned that a Hamas delegation, led by the movement’s representative in Lebanon Ali Baraka, met with several top security officials who were briefed about the initiative.

Baraka also visited Ain al-Hilweh last week to discuss the initiative with the heads of the Islamist factions.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 24, 2014, on page 4.

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