Clashes Continue in Ain el-Hilweh, Army Tightens Security

Clashes continued on Saturday at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in Sidon, after overnight armed clashes between the Joint Palestinian Security Forces and hardline Islamist group led by Bilal Badr, the National News Agency reported.

NNA said that Fatah commander Munir Maqdah have said in a statement: “The situation at the camp is taking a military course and will be settled. Fatah movement has recorded a progress against the groups of Bilal Badr. The security forces will deploy in the camp, no other solution.”

Armed clashes erupted at the camp on Friday and continued throughout the night amid tight security measures taken by the Lebanese army at entrances leading to the camp, NNA said.

The clashes between the Joint Palestinian Security Force and Badr’s group continued throughout the night, where sounds of bullets and rocket-propelled grenades were heard, NNA said.

The clashes were mostly centered on the axis of al-Tayreh, Bilal Badr’s stronghold, in al-Fawqani street and Jabal al-Halib. Meanwhile Fatah movement forces broke into Badr’s new residence in Hay al-Tayreh without finding him.

The clashes left one man, Moussa al-Khorbayti from the Joint Force, dead and nine others wounded. Several houses, shops and vehicles were burned, while schools around the camp and in the city of Sidon were closed because of the deteriorating situation, said NNA.

Sidon’s Grand Serail and the Governmental Hospital were evacuated.

The Lebanese army tightened its security measures at the entrances leading to the camp. Due to stray bullets reaching areas outside the camp, the army blocked Sidon’s al-Hesbe highway in both directions

The fighting erupted on Friday evening during a deployment by the Joint Palestinian Security Force on the camp’s al-Fawqani street.

NNA said the Joint Force was insisting on deploying in three locations it had specified amid continued opposition by Badr’s group to the move.

Media reports meanwhile said a lot of families have fled the area of the clashes.

NNA said Sidon MP Bahia Hariri was conducting intensive contacts with the national and Islamist Palestinian factions in a bid to reach a ceasefire.

Several similar clashes have erupted in Ain el-Hilweh in recent months, mainly pitting Islamist militants from Badr’s group and members of the secular Fatah Movement.