SIDON, Lebanon: A Palestinian member of Fatah al-Islam was shot in the refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh Thursday, in the latest attack to destabilize the camp, the largest in Lebanon.
Masked gunmen opened fire on Alaa Ali Hajir at the entrance of the vegetable market in the camp and wounded him in the chest and arms. He remains in critical condition.
Hajir, who is wanted by the Lebanese authorities, was transferred to Al-Nidaa Al-Insani Hospital inside the camp, which falls on the outskirts of the southern city of Sidon. He was later moved to Labib Medical Center outside the camp.
The attack sparked tensions in Ain al-Hilweh, where Hajir’s family fired shots in the air and schools managed by the UNRWA refugee agency closed.
The Ain al-Hilweh camp recently witnessed several attacks on Islamists. Last month, the bodyguard of Fatah al-Islam official Bilal Badr, Ali Khalil, was shot in the head and later died from his wounds. Palestinian sources said Hajir was also a member of Badr’s armed group.
The attacks also come just weeks after a Sunni sheikh, Arsan Suleiman, was fatally shot in Ain al-Hilweh. Suleiman was the head of a charity linked to the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, an Islamist group that was active during the period of Syrian tutelage over Lebanon.
The incidents sparked fears of a string of assassinations aimed at further destabilizing the camp and provoking a security crisis, as the perpetrators of the recent attacks remain unknown.
Palestinian factions held emergency meetings after the incident in an attempt to contain the fallout, as they have done after past attacks.
“There are intense efforts by all the national and Islamic factions to maintain security and stability in the camp and its surroundings,” said Abu Ziad al-Nasr, the commander of Palestinian security forces based in Ain al-Hilweh.
“But it appears that some refuse to answer this call and do not want a secure future for the camp,” he said.
“We will work with all the factions in the camp to control the situation for the good of our people and neighbors.”
Ghassan Hmeid, the spokesman of Ansar Allah, an Islamist Palestinian group backed by Hezbollah, blamed the “wave of assassinations” in the camp on Israel, saying they constituted an attempt to sow insecurity and undermine the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homeland.