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Residents flee fierce clashes in Lebanon’s Ein El Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp

Ambulances rushed the wounded to hospitals near the camp in the port city of Sidon, and Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported that four people had been killed since fighting began on Friday.
An injured Fatah member stands guard during clashes that erupted between the Palestinian political movement and radical Islamists in the Ein El Hilweh refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon, on April 9, 2017. Mohammed Zaatari / AP Photo
An injured Fatah member stands guard during clashes that erupted between the Palestinian political movement and radical Islamists in the Ein El Hilweh refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon, on April 9, 2017. Mohammed Zaatari / AP Photo

SIDON // Residents fled the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon on Sunday as clashes between Palestinian security forces and radical Islamists intensified for a third day.

Ambulances rushed the wounded to hospitals near the Ein El Hilweh camp in the port city of Sidon, and Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported that four people had been killed since the fighting began on Friday.

Fighters armed with assault rifles and truck-mounted rocket-propelled grenades traded fire inside.

Traces of violence spilt beyond the camp’s boundaries, and Lebanon’s authorities closed the motorway connecting the city to southern Lebanon. Sidon’s government hospital was struck by a rocket.

Representatives of several of the largest Palestinian factions, including Fatah, ordered the Islamist fighter Bilal Badr and his followers to hand themselves over to the authorities or face a decisive crackdown. The camp’s radical groups have regularly fallen afoul of Palestinian security forces for hiding fugitives from the Lebanese law. Under an agreement with the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organisation, Lebanon’s security forces are not authorised to enter the camp.

Ein El Hilweh resident Salah Al Ali said the camp had been damaged by shelling.

“We ask from God that the situation calms down so that we can return to our homes,” he said from Sidon’s Musally mosque, where he was taking shelter.

The spokesman for the Council of Palestinian Scholars in Lebanon said the radical groups were issuing fatwas authorising the killing of people they disagreed with.

“This has led to chaos in Ein El Hilweh,” said Sheikh Mohamad Al Muwad in his office in Sidon. “These groups do not abide by any oaths or promises.”

Palestinians in Lebanon are prohibited from working in professional jobs and have few legal protections. They are also prohibited from owning property.

The United Nations says some 55,000 people live in Ein El Hilweh. The camp was established in 1948 to host Palestinians displaced by Israeli forces during the establishment of Israel.

* Associated Press

Updated: April 9, 2017 04:00 AM

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