Fierce clashes rock Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon

Ain al-Hilweh

Palestinian factions announced on Tuesday an agreement had been reached to dissolve a self-proclaimed security zone of a Takfiri group which has been engaged in fierce clashes with the Joint Palestinian Security Force in Sidon's Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp in the last five days.

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.

The fighting prompted the Lebanese army to close the highway next to the entrance to the camp and Lebanon's health ministry to evacuate patients from the nearby government hospital.

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There are some 450,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps in Lebanon.

The clashes, which reportedly involve the use of machine guns and mortars, have pitted forces loyal to the Palestinian Fatah movement against the "Bilal Badr group", a Salafist faction whose critics accuse it of pursuing a "foreign agenda".

Palestinian officials in the camp called on Sunday on remaining members of a group led by a local extremist to surrender with their weapons.

Ein el-Hilweh, which like the other camps falls outside the jurisdiction of the Lebanese security services, has been plagued in recent months by deadly clashes between the various armed groups operating there.

Palestinian factions in the camp accused a small militant group linked to an extremist Islamist of firing on the security force after demanding that the deployment not extend to its area of influence.

A resident of the camp's Tireh district, where heavy clashes were ongoing, said the fighting had set at least seven houses alight and trapped dozens of families.

Ain el-Hilweh is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria. The camp was established in 1948 to host Palestinians displaced by Israeli forces during the establishment of Israel.

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