Lebanon News

Families flee Mieh Mieh camp after heavy clashes erupt

Smoke billowed from buildings in the Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp during clashes Monday. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: Violent clashes broke out Monday in the Mieh Mieh Palestinian camp near Sidon, leaving at least six militants wounded and causing residents to flee amid sounds of machine-gun fire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

The clashes broke out between Ansar Allah, a Hezbollah-linked Islamist group in the camp, and the Fatah Movement.

Fatah, as a major contingent of the joint Palestinian security forces, oversees security in Mieh Mieh.

The clashes erupted when a dispute between a Fatah member, Ahmad al-Abed, known as “Potato,” and Ansar Allah’s Mohammad Hussein, known as “Albi,” escalated into an exchange of gunfire.

An official from the Hamas movement in Sidon told The Daily Star that the clashes stopped at 9 p.m. and that the armed men had been pulled from the camp’s streets. The cease-fire was the result of a meeting between representatives of the Palestinian National Security Forces and Ansar Allah at the camp’s Hamas headquarters.

A security source told The Daily Star that at least 16 people were injured in the clashes, one of whom is in critical condition. Citing camp officials, the Associated Press reported that most of those wounded were Fatah members.

When a reporter from The Daily Star attempted to enter the camp around 6 p.m. Monday, he was denied access; emergency vehicles were also prevented from entering. Adding to the chaos, many residents had begun fleeing the camp soon after the clashes began, and black smoke was billowing from several buildings inside.

Because the clashes rendered the camp’s main entry and exit points unsafe, the Lebanese Army secured an exit route for dozens of families by removing barriers from the camp’s southern end. The Army also distributed water to the leaving families.

In addition to the meeting that resulted in the cease-fire, Hezbollah officials and representatives from Hamas and Ansar Allah also reportedly held a joint meeting at the office of General Secretary of the Union of Resistance Scholars Sheikh Maher Hammoud. No further details of the meeting were available before publication Monday.

Since July 2017, tensions between Fatah and Ansar Allah have repeatedly erupted into clashes, prompting families to have bags packed and ready in case security escalations necessitate emergency evacuations.

In 2017, a member of Ansar Allah is alleged to have attempted the assassination of the intelligence chief at the Palestinian Embassy, Brig. Gen. Ismail Sharrouf who survived the attempt and later pointed fingers at Ansar Allah members.

In September, the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch arrested a member of the group suspected of being connected to the assassination attempt.

 
This article was amended on Sunday, October 21 2018

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that tensions between Hamas, and not Fatah, and Ansar Allah have repeatedly erupted into clashes. The Daily Star regrets this error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 16, 2018, on page 2.

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