SIDON, Lebanon: Clashes resumed for a fifth day Tuesday in Lebanon's largest refugee camp as Palestinian factions vowed to crack down on extremist Bilal Badr's group in the camp.
A security source told The Daily Star that gun battles erupted in Ain al-Hilweh after Badr loyalists opened fire on Fatah forces that were retreating to an area near the Al-Tiri neighborhood, Badr’s stronghold, to make way for the Palestinian joint security force to deploy in the area.
Masked gunmen were seen making a victory sign, which prompted Fatah members to return to Al-Tiri, leading to skirmishes. Fatah members launched a rocket propelled grenade at the positions of the masked gunmen.
Mourners of slain Fatah fighter Mohammad Zbeidat also opened fire into the air as his body arrived in Baraksat neighborhood for a funeral.
Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf visited Sidon MP Bahia Hariri in the south Lebanon city and spoke to the press.
"I want to tell the people of Ain al-Hilweh that you are not alone," Sarraf said. "The Lebanese military is on the side of the people of Sidon."
"I thank her (MP Bahia Hariri) for her hard work ... without expanding the conflict outside of the camp." he added.
Speaking at a news conference following a meeting between Palestinian factions earlier in the day, Fatah Movement Secretary Fathi Abu al-Ardat said that Badr and his loyalists were considered fugitives and would be hunted down by the Palestinian joint security force and handed over to the Lebanese Army.
Palestinian factions also pledged that they would not allow the security at the camp to deteriorate again, and called on the residents to return, a statement issued after the meeting said.
The joint security force will also enter the Al-Tiri neighborhood.
The factions also reached a cease-fire agreement, but it did not stop the fighting.
Ain al-Hilweh has been rocked by four days of clashes with Badr – who has links to Al-Qaeda – and his supporters.
Fighting paused on Monday after Badr fled the Al-Tiri neighborhood.
A security source told The Daily Star that Badr is still in Ain al-Hilweh, but his whereabouts remain unknown.
Badr's loyalists have also fled the besieged neighborhood of Al-Tiri and their whereabouts remain unknown.
Before he fled, Badr was thought to be holed up in the Smayrieh area, which faces Al-Tiri.
He is wanted by the Lebanese authorities on numerous charges.
The armed dispute has left at least 10 dead and some 50 wounded since Friday, including numerous civilians.