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Fatah to sign neutrality pact after Islamists agree to end assassinations

File - Fatah fighters parade during a ceremony in Ain al-Hilweh near Sidon last year. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: The Fatah Movement has agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding aimed at insulating Palestinian refugee camps from Lebanese conflicts and the crisis in neighboring Syria, after the Islamist Jund al-Sham and Fatah al-Islam factions agreed to stop assassinating Fatah members.

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. The memorandum is an effort to quell escalating tensions between Hezbollah and the Amal Movement on one side and Palestinian Islamist factions on the other, as both groups hold conflicting stances toward the conflict in Syria and the terrorist attacks that have targeted areas associated with Hezbollah.

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, specifically by rejecting resettlement projects and supporting the unity of Lebanon, boosting Lebanese-Palestinian relations and supporting Palestinian resistance against Israel.

Fatah’s condition for signing the MOU was a statement that all relevant parties would stop assassinating its party’s members. Fatah introduced the statement after a number of Palestinian officials, many from Fatah, were killed. The movement’s leadership in south Lebanon approached Islamist groups, notably Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Osbat al-Ansar and Sheikh Khattab, over the assassinations, saying there was clear evidence Islamists were the culprits but that they would not retaliate in order to maintain stability in the camps.

The statement, named the Gathering of the Muslim Youth, was signed by Islamists Haitham al-Shaabi, Bilal Badr, Jamal Hamad, Ziad Abu Naaj and Osama Shehabi – all of whom are wanted by Lebanese authorities. Hamas, Islamic Jihad,and Osbat al-Ansar leaders supervised the signing of the statement.

“We at Ain al-Hilweh camp find ourselves targeted for our religion and our cause, which is one of the most just causes on earth. ... Conspiracies are being hatched against us at all levels,” the statement said.

It goes on to say that the group rejects the killing or physical harming of any Muslim, adding that Palestinians at the camp are united under one religion, and that killing is prohibited under God’s law.

“We denounce the recruitment of individuals from the Palestinian camps in Lebanon to carry out security or military operations,” the text said. “And the concerned authorities have been notified in this regard, and we received enormous support.”

The statement also called on all Palestinian leaders and parties to cooperate with Lebanese figures.

The Palestinian factions will sign the MOU Friday at 4 p.m. at the Ziad Atrash Hall in Ain al-Hilweh. The memorandum, which features 19 points, addresses the various aspects of the political, legal and security issues of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon and spells out the duties of both the Lebanese and the Palestinian authorities.

Palestinian leaders are hoping that the initiative will strengthen relations between both sides to safeguard Palestinian camps, as they consider it part of a larger initiative to maintain Lebanon’s security and stability.

The Palestinian initiative aims at “preserving the Palestinian camps and neutralizing them under the slogan of the [Palestinian] refugee cause, working on preventing sectarian strife and preventing Palestinian-Lebanese or Palestinian-Palestinian fighting, protecting Lebanese national identity by maintaining the right of return and refusing land resettlements, displacements and alternative housing, supporting Lebanon’s unity and its security and stability and reinforcing Lebanese-Palestinian relationships,” the memorandum said.

Palestinian Ambassador Ashraf Dabbour is expected to speak Friday, along with seven others from different Palestinian factions.

Articles of the MOU outline how to fight different forms of strife, denounce attacks and assassinations across Lebanon, refuse to shelter extremist elements involved in security operations, and stress neutrality.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 28, 2014, on page 4.

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Summary

The Fatah Movement has agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding aimed at insulating Palestinian refugee camps from Lebanese conflicts and the crisis in neighboring Syria, after the Islamist Jund al-Sham and Fatah al-Islam factions agreed to stop assassinating Fatah members.

Fatah introduced the statement after a number of Palestinian officials, many from Fatah, were killed. The movement's leadership in south Lebanon approached Islamist groups, notably Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Osbat al-Ansar and Sheikh Khattab, over the assassinations, saying there was clear evidence Islamists were the culprits but that they would not retaliate in order to maintain stability in the camps.

The statement also called on all Palestinian leaders and parties to cooperate with Lebanese figures.


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