Lebanon News

At Mieh Mieh, uneasy calm during heightened tensions

Lebanese soldiers enter the Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: A week after clashes rocked the Palestinian refugee camp of Mieh Mieh, the camp’s residents and Palestinian factions remained cautiously calm amid heightened tensions between rival groups.

The south Lebanon camp has not yet recovered from the latest clashes, which erupted last Monday between the Fatah Movement and Ansar Allah, leaving two Fatah members dead and more than 20 wounded before a cease-fire was reached.

The clashes broke out when a dispute between Fatah member Ahmad al-Abed, known as “Potato,” and Ansar Allah’s Mohammad Hussein, known as “Albi,” escalated into an exchange of gunfire. Many families fled the camp to escape the violence.

An unsteady cease-fire was reached last week.

Fatah continued to bring reinforcements into the camp and attempted to advance toward the security zone of Ansar Allah Secretary-General Jamal Sleiman. The group also attempted to take control of the rooftops surrounding Sleiman’s headquarters.

But the cease-fire held, despite the ongoing tensions.

Full-blown clashes in Mieh Mieh are uncommon, but several small-scale incidents in recent weeks had preempted the fighting.

Since July 2017, tensions between Fatah and Ansar Allah inside Mieh Mieh have repeatedly erupted into fighting, prompting families to have bags packed and ready to flee at a moment’s notice.

In 2017, a member of Ansar Allah allegedly attempted to assassinate the Palestinian Embassy intelligence chief, Brig. Gen. Ismail Sharrouf. He survived the attempt and later blamed Ansar Allah members for the attack.

The escalation of the events in Mieh Mieh prompted the Lebanese Army to enter the camp Thursday for an inspection tour and to visit the headquarters of the joint Palestinian security force before exiting the camp again.

Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are largely off-limits to Lebanese security services.

This is based on the 1969 Cairo agreement, which placed the responsibility for security in the camps on the Palestinian security forces, but the arrangement continued after the agreement was annulled.

The Palestinian refugee camp Ain al-Hilweh, the largest camp in Lebanon, is more often the site of clashes between the different Palestinian factions.

Over the weekend, the Army strengthened its security measures around Mieh Mieh and its entrances, as different representatives from Lebanese political parties visited the area to call for calm.

Coordination on the situation of the Palestinian camps and the recent Mieh Mieh conflict was also the focus of talks held Saturday between Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour and a Hamas Movement delegation headed by Ahmad Abdel-Hadi.

The meeting, held at the Palestinian Embassy, was also attended by Fatah Movement representatives and Head of the Palestinian National Security Forces Maj. Gen. Sobhi Abu Arab.

“The use of Palestinian arms within Lebanon is unacceptable,” Abdel-Hadi said after the meeting. He said the situation in the camp was still tense, but de-escalation efforts were underway.

“The Lebanese authorities relayed a very important message to both Fatah and Ansar Allah: What happened in the camp shouldn’t be repeated again,” he added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 22, 2018, on page 2.

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