Lebanon News

Joint security force enters notorious Ain al-Hilweh neighborhood, ends clashes

BEIRUT: Joint Palestinian security forces entered the extremist-held Al-Tiri neighborhood in Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp on Wednesday, ending six days of clashes with extremists.

Al-Tiri is a stronghold of extremist Bilal Badr and his supporters, who had engaged in clashes with Fatah Movement since last week.

An intense exchange of fire erupted in Ain al-Hilweh earlier Wednesday ahead of the force deployment.

A Daily Star source reported sniper-fire in Safsaf, wounding two.

Representatives from the camp's different factions and displaced accompanied the forces as they redeployed into Al-Tiri, and restoring their positions.

Hamas spokesperson Ali Barake praised the joint security forces for their successful deployment, and thanked the Palestinians in Ain al-Hilweh and the Lebanese in Saida and neighboring areas for their steadfastness and resilience over the past week.

Fatah Movement leaders have rejected an agreement to allow Badr to flee Al-Tiri in return for allowing the recently re-established joint security forces to deploy in the neighborhood.

Badr, who is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has reportedly fled to another Ain al-Hilweh neighborhood controlled by an extremist group.

Palestinian National Security Forces in Lebanon, Gen. Sobhi Abu Arab, chaired on Thursday a meeting for the Palestinian national security that was attended by prominent Fatah officers.

Abu Arab said Fatah will not back down on its efforts to apprehend "the criminal Bilal Badr."

"We will not cooperate or agree on a cease-fire. If everyone [Palestinian factions] agrees that the joint security force deploys [in Al-Tiri] then we will abide by the decision," he said, warning extremists of targeting the force after its deployment.

"If one shot was fired at the security force then all the Palestinian factions will respond."

The joint Palestinian force was due to enter the Al-Tiri neighborhood Tuesday morning, but Badr’s loyalists opened fire at the unit’s members.

Badr is wanted by the Lebanese authorities on numerous charges.

The fighting sent a thick plume of black smoke into the sky after the Fatah Movement targeted areas on the outskirts of Al-Tiri neighborhood.

Gun battles erupted in the camp Friday between Badr’s supporters and the joint force, leaving at least 10 dead and some 50 wounded over six days, including numerous civilians.

Palestinian factions met Tuesday to discuss the latest developments.

Fatah Movement Secretary Fathi Abu al-Ardat said Badr and his loyalists were considered fugitives, and would be hunted down by the joint security force and handed over to the Lebanese Army.

Schools and universities in Sidon remained closed Wednesday due to the security situation.

Priority to Help Civilians

United Nations Relief and Works Agency director Claudio Cordone visited a school in the south Lebanon Mieh Mieh camp where Palestinians fleeing Ain al-Hilweh have taken refuge.

Cordone told the 29 families – some 150 people – that all their needs would be met.

Several Lebanese and Palestinian NGOs have also been providing the displaced children with support.

Cordone later headed to Taamir neighborhood, located between Ain al-Hilweh’s entrance and a nearby Army checkpoint, to meet with the displaced taking refuge the area.

He told The Daily Star that he hoped that residents of the camp return to their homes, adding that UNRWA will offer necessary assistance to repair homes damaged in the clashes.

The UNRWA chief also said the agency seeks to provide mobile health clinics.

"We are doing all [that is] possible to aid the people of the camp," he said, adding that material damage at the camp was immense, but the priority was to help people.

He said that the agency was in constant contact with Palestinian factions and Lebanese authorities to follow up on the matter.

"We have an emergency plan to remove the remnants of the clashes," Cordone said, calling on the fighting sides to "respect civilians and UNRWA facilities."





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