At least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded in renewed violence between rival groups at a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, as stray bullets and shells hit residential areas. site of the third largest city of Sidon in the country.
The Ein el-Hilweh camp has been rocked by factional fighting since late July between the Palestinian mainstream movement Fatah and hardline groups. The first round left more than a dozen people dead.
Fighting continued over the weekend after a month-long ceasefire and has since left at least 10 people dead, according to two Palestinian sources in the camp. Six of them are fighters from Fatah and two others are from another group of fighters, they said on Monday.
The two remaining victims were civilians, a Lebanese security source and two Palestinian sources said. One person was killed on Saturday when stray bullets from the clashes hit a town near the camp, a Lebanese security source said.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, shared its own tally on Sunday saying that four people were killed and 60 others were injured. It called for an immediate end to the violence.
Five Lebanese soldiers were also wounded, one of them critically, when two of their positions outside the camp were hit on Sunday, according to an army statement.
“We will not stop what happened in Ein el-Hilweh,” warned Elias al-Baysari, head of the General Security Directorate, in an interview with a local newspaper published on Monday. “The conditions in the camp are unbearable,” he said.
Al-Baysari on Monday hosted a meeting in his office in Beirut that included officials from several Palestinian factions to discuss the possibility of a new truce.
More than 50 others were injured, according to state medical and media officials.
On Monday, gunshots and explosions were heard throughout the day inside the camp and stray bullets hit a municipal building in Sidon damaging windows without injuring anyone, the state-run National News Agency said. .
The public Lebanese University was closed and the Lebanese Army closed the main highway connecting Beirut to southern Lebanon near the camp and traffic was diverted to a coastal road.
Extreme humanitarian situation
Ein el-Hilweh is the largest of 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, which host about 80,000 to 250,000 Palestinians across the country, according to the United Nations’ Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA). Nation. The camps date back seven decades to the founding of Israel in 1948.
UNRWA said hundreds of families missing from the camp have taken shelter in nearby mosques, schools and Sidon’s municipal building.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting near the Sidon camp, said, describing the situation as “desperate”.
“Hundreds of families escaped the fighting, they left their homes in Ein el-Hilweh. Others remain trapped inside,” Khodr said.
In some neighborhoods, it is very difficult to drive to reach places outside the camp, he said.
“These people were poor in the beginning. The majority of Palestinians in Lebanon … if they can’t work now, they can’t put food on the table,” Khodr said.
Many rely on support from local charities. But even UNRWA is a “cash-strapped organization,” he added.
UNRWA appealed last week for $15.5m to repair infrastructure damaged in the latest round of fighting in the camp, provide alternative education locations for children whose schools have been damaged or occupied by fighters, and provide cash assistance to people displaced from their homes.
Khodr said additional funding may be needed to repair additional damages reported over the weekend.
Separately, UNRWA said armed groups had taken over eight of its schools, forcing the agency to look for alternatives to host students as the start of the school year approaches.
The renewed violence has prompted fresh concerns that clashes could spread to the nearby city of Sidon.
Residents fear a similar scenario in the northern Palestinian camp of Nahr al-Bared, where the Lebanese army launched a 15-week offensive to drive out armed groups in 2007.
A senior Fatah official is scheduled to land in Lebanon this Monday and the acting chief of Lebanon’s powerful General Security intelligence agency will hold an emergency meeting on the issue.