Local forces deploy in Palestinian camp in Lebanon after clashes
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Local forces deploy in Palestinian camp in Lebanon after clashes

9 dead and nearly 50 wounded following a week of fighting in Ain al-Hilweh

A member of the joint Palestinian security forces takes position through a hole in a wall with a Kalashnikov rifle in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, Lebanon, April 12, 2017. (AFP/stringer)
A member of the joint Palestinian security forces takes position through a hole in a wall with a Kalashnikov rifle in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, Lebanon, April 12, 2017. (AFP/stringer)

SIDON, Lebanon — A local security force deployed across southern Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp on Thursday, a commander said, ending a week of sporadic clashes with an extremist group.

The fighting, which left nine dead and more than 50 wounded, had prompted many to flee their homes and forced schools and shops in and around the camp to close.

The commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the local security force, which includes 100 fighters from several Palestinian factions, was able to deploy throughout the camp after a ceasefire late Wednesday night.

“Security forces deployed in the Al-Tiri neighborhood, which had been the focal point of the clashes,” the commander said.

He added that “extremist Islamist groups” had withdrawn from some areas to avoid further clashes.

Lebanon’s army does not enter the camp by long-standing convention.

On Wednesday Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman telephoned United Nations envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov and berated him for not commenting on the recent Palestinian deaths in the camp, saying it showed the “hypocrisy and double standards” the world has against Israel.

“The international community’s disregard for the dozens of people killed and injured again proves the hypocrisy and double standards by which the world operates, in which it overlooks serious cases like these, while on the other hand, it denounces every justified action taken by Israel against terrorism,” Liberman said, according to his office.

Paramedics walk amid the destruction after clashes that took place earlier in the week between an extremist group and a Palestinian security force, in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, April 12, 2017. (AFP/STRINGER)
Paramedics walk amid the destruction after clashes that took place earlier in the week between an extremist group and a Palestinian security force in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, April 12, 2017. (AFP/stringer)

Fighting erupted late Friday after Palestinian factions deployed throughout Ain al-Hilweh as part of an operation aimed at combating the influence of a local Islamist group linked to Bilal Badr, a wanted militant.

The commander said Badr had refused to give himself up to Palestinian security forces to be handed over to the Lebanese authorities.

Badr is wanted on suspicion of “terrorism,” firearms offenses and belonging to an armed group, according to a Lebanese security official.

An AFP correspondent said the camp had suffered major damage and that some residents had been trapped inside their homes throughout the fighting.

Local activist Asef Moussa told AFP that “dozens of young people will volunteer on Friday to clean the streets and clear up the damage and rubble left by the fighting.”

The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said it welcomed the return to calm.

“UNRWA… is working to restore its services in the camp as quickly as possible,” said its local affairs director Claudio Cordone, adding that UNRWA would resume its activities on Friday morning.

Ain al-Hilweh is the most densely populated Palestinian camp in Lebanon.

Home to multiple armed factions including extremist groups, it has been plagued by intermittent clashes.

Lebanese security forces do 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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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