SIDON, Lebanon: Members of the Lebanese Army entered Sidon’s Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp Thursday and will remain stationed inside at the headquarters of the joint Palestinian security forces, a security source told The Daily Star. “The Army is going to take over a number of points inside the Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp, but outside of the areas operated by UNRWA,” the source added.
It also sent in reinforcements of about 100 personnel and officers to all the camp’s entrances.
The development came even though Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are largely off-limits to Lebanese security services, based on a 1969 Cairo agreement that placed the responsibility for security in the camps on Palestinian security forces. The arrangement continued after the agreement was annulled.
The security source described the Army’s moves as looking to reassure residents of the camp and of Sidon that the Army is deployed not only within the camp and at its entrances but also around it, and “that [it has] the security situation ... under control.” It is also a warning message to cease the fighting.
However, multiple other security sources expressed concern that the Army’s presence wouldn’t help defuse the issue but would instead worsen it, since parties inside the camp didn’t green-light the Army’s presence. “They can open fire and launch over 100 missiles ... with Palestinians paying the price,” one of these sources said.
The Army, in coordination with Army Intelligence, spent Thursday carrying out reconnaissance work, learning the lay of the land as they moved further into the camp. Their duties consist of keeping the peace and ensuring no faction breaks the cease-fire brokered after this week’s clashes between the Fatah Movement and Ansar Allah that all but destroyed the security forces’ headquarters.
The first units entered the camp at around 11 a.m. from the south and the east entrances, walking toward the headquarters where security forces are stationed, and will remain there for the foreseeable future. Even as the Army was deploying its units, “contacts inside the camp were still trying to assure the camp’s residents that the security situation was under control,” the source said.
The deployment came after Archbishop Elie Haddad, pastor of Sidon and Deir al-Qamar’s Roman Catholic Melkite Church, sent an appeal to President Michel Aoun asking for the Army to protect the people of Mieh Mieh and nearby areas. He called on Christian and Muslim factions to raise their voices and “put an end to the bleeding and the suffering.”
Violent clashed broke out Monday before dying down that night and erupting anew around 10 a.m. Tuesday, as militants from both Fatah and Ansar Allah fired rocket propelled grenades and mortar bombs at each other. Palestinian authorities brokered the cease-fire in Mieh Mieh later Tuesday, pulling all fighters from the streets, but failed to convince residents that the camp was safe enough to return.
Two men identified as Fatah members were killed and about 20 more were wounded, the security source said. Fatah was convinced Thursday to bury its dead, and their funerals will be held Friday.
Ansar Allah issued a statement saying some were circulating misinformation on social media under its name. One report read that Hezbollah, an Ansar Allah ally, was willing to attack Fatah if it clashed with Ansar Allah, which the group declared as “fabrication and baseless.” Ansar Allah, Fatah and other Palestinian factions are currently working together to keep the calm and avoid further violence.
This article was amended on Sunday, October 21 2018
An earlier version of this article failed to mention that the 1969 Cairo agreement has been annulled. The Daily Star regrets this error.