SIDON, Lebanon: A late-night cease-fire came into effect in the restive Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp Thursday after efforts led by Speaker Nabih Berri.
Panic had broken out in the afternoon when clashes renewed between the camp’s Fatah Movement and the Hezbollah-linked Ansar Allah. Fatah attacked the northeastern side of the camp where Ansar Allah’s stronghold is located, using heavy weapons, including artillery.
Heavy clashes ensued, interrupted by cautious periods of calm.
Berri and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri had promised to work to restore calm in a call with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas statements said.
Haniyeh contacted Hamas officials in Mieh Mieh to call for a cease-fire. He later spoke to Hariri and thanked him for his efforts, another Hamas statement said.
Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh announced late Thursday that all schools in Sidon would be closed Friday. The Lebanese University was also set close, with the expectation that classes would resume Monday.
Two Lebanese Army personnel, a Fatah fighter and a civilian were reported to have been wounded as of Thursday night. Eyewitnesses told The Daily Star that the shootout left buildings close to the camp riddled with bullet holes.
An hour after the clashes began, Palestinian security sources told The Daily Star that Ansar Allah members were willing to agree to a cease-fire in the camp following calls for calm from multiple Palestinian factions.
Fighting eased around 7 p.m. after Palestinian National Security Forces Chief Maj. Gen. Sobhi Abu Arab headed to Mieh Mieh to work on the cease-fire with Fatah. Both parties were reportedly on the brink of committing to a cease-fire before fighting broke out again at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday’s clashes followed a day during which the Lebanese Army deployed to the camp’s entrances and a position inside the camp after Palestinian groups agreed to evacuate those areas.
The Army Thursday took measures to protect soldiers and control the camp’s entrances.
The renewed clashes prompted both Hezbollah and the Amal Movement to intervene. A meeting was held at the office of pro-Hezbollah Sheikh Maher Hammoud in Sidon in the presence of several Palestinian factions. The attendees agreed to inform security officials at Mieh Mieh about the need for a cease-fire.
Sidon MP Bahia Hariri informed the premier-designate of the efforts made to maintain the situation.
Clashes erupted on Oct. 15, leaving two Fatah members dead and over 20 wounded before a cease-fire could be reached. The fighting broke out when a dispute between Fatah member Ahmad al-Abed, known as “Potato,” and Ansar Allah’s Mohammad Hussein, known as “Albi,” escalated. Many families fled to escape the violence. An unsteady cease-fire had ben reached last week.
Earlier Thursday, President Michel Aoun stressed that the Army would take the necessary measures to preserve security. His comments came during a meeting with Archbishop Elie Haddad, pastor of Sidon and Deir al-Qamar’s Roman Catholic Melkite Church, a statement from Baabda Palace said.
“The measures on the field that the Army has taken can prevent an assault on the town and its residents,” the presidency’s statement said, adding that the delegation presented Aoun with a series of demands.
This article was amended on Friday, October 26 2018
An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that a brief cease-fire was achieved Thursday evening at 7 p.m. Though the conflicting parties were working towards a cease-fire at that time, they did not reach a truce before fighting broke out again at 7:30 p.m. The Daily Star regrets this error.