Lebanon News

Ibrahim slams Ain al-Hilweh force delay

File - Palestinian fighters from Fatah stand on alert during clashes at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, near Sidon, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: The head of General Security Tuesday blasted representatives of various Palestinian political, Islamist and civil factions in Lebanon over their delay in deploying a new elite security force created to contain a wave of political violence and assassinations in the southern camp.

The meeting between Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, one of Lebanon’s top security figures, and the General Committee, a umbrella group that represents all Palestinian factions in Lebanon, comes as officials in Lebanon’s largest refugee camp struggle to find money to fund the 150-person unit, according to well-placed sources.

Sources said that during the discussion, which was held at the General Security’s headquarters in Beirut, Ibrahim demanded to know why the security force was taking so long to activate, saying the process should be expedited and that any delay would only harm the camp further.

The meeting was attended by a representative of each faction, including the Fatah Movement, PFLP, PLO, the People’s Party, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP-GC, Fatah-Intifada and Ansar Allah. Two groups, Osbat al-Ansar and the Islamic Jihad Movement, were absent.

The process putting together the new security force began over the weekend in earnest with the selection of five prominent figures from the camp to choose the members, who will represent the various Palestinian factions. The formation of the force was preceded by a number of apparently politically motivated murders in the camp, with an assassination attempt on Fatah Movement official Talal al-Urdini occurring Monday.

But although all factions in the camp are excited to form the new force, it appears not everyone in the camp is treating it as the top priority.

Fatah Movement has been heavily involved in working to improve the situation in the restive camp and instill unity in the fractured community. However, it is also seizing the opportunity to better organize its internal structure and soldiers with the aim of strengthening the group’s role in Palestinian affairs, which it believes will allow it to better serve Palestinians in Lebanon in general and its followers specifically.

The Fatah Movement dominates the Palestinian National Security Forces, which constituted several groups that were merged years ago and is currently in the process of being trained up.

The move was preceded by a number of meetings between Gen. Sobhi Abu Arab, the head of the National Security Forces, and various leaders from all the Palestinian factions and units, including one Monday at the Palestinian Embassy in Beirut that was attended by a convoy of prominent officers from the Fatah Movement in Ramallah.

The officials have come to Lebanon to monitor a round of National Security Forces training that is taking place in Rashidieh camp in Tyre, which is the second-largest camp dominated by the Fatah Movement. The training will continue until June 26, and a minimum of 500 of the officers participating are from the Fatah Movement’s contingencies in various areas and camps.

Palestinian sources have expressed concern that Fatah may be steeling itself for future security clashes, something the party has denied.

The growing insecurity in the camp has also made life more difficult for Palestinian refugees from Syria, who face even more difficulties than longtime camp residents.

Ibrahim touched on this point during the meeting Tuesday, sources said, announcing that General Security had granted those with existing one-year permits an extra three months because of the upcoming month of Ramadan, which begins June 28.

He said General Security was taking a humanitarian approach to the issue, according to sources.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 21, 2014, on page 4.




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