Report: Army Says Won’t Permit Ain el-Hilweh Clashes Expand into Sidon

Smoke rises during clashes in Ain al-Hilweh camp, Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, on April 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Mahmoud ZAYYAT

As clashes at the southern Palestinian Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon aggravate, the Lebanese army assured that it won’t allow the tension to spill over into Sidon and neighboring areas, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday.

“The army’s decision is clear and firm. It will not accept that the clashes extend beyond the camp because the security of Sidon and its vicinity is a red line,” a prominent military source told the daily on condition of anonymity.

The source stressed that the army has not intervened to stop the camp’s clashes, he said: “The army would only intervene when it senses that things are out of control and if it started threatening neighborhood areas.”

“The military will not allow the repetition of the Lebanese-Palestinian conflict or the 1975 war. But an outbreak outside the camp will face relentless response,” affirmed the source.

However, he assured that situations at other southern refugee camps are controlled well, appeasing fears of bids to ignite a Sunni-Shiite strife through the presence of Palestinian weapons.

Sporadic clashes that have killed eight people and wounded around 40 others, continued in Ain al-Hilweh as an extremist group of Bilal Badr battled local security force.

Fighting erupted late Friday after Palestinian factions deployed throughout the camp as part of a joint security force aimed at combating the influence of a local Islamic extremist group.

Ain al-Hilweh is home to multiple armed factions, and has been plagued by intermittent clashes among them as well as against smaller extremist groups.

Lebanon’s army does not enter Palestinian refugee camps, where security is managed by joint committees of Palestinian factions.

Ain al-Hilweh is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria.