Palestinians in Lebanon to hand over terror suspects

Deal comes days after rockets reportedly fired by Palestinian groups hit Israel, prompting response, and as country grapples with deadly sectarian violence

Lebanese Army soldiers at the site of a car bomb explosion outside the Salam Mosque, in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, on August 24, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese Army soldiers at the site of a car bomb explosion outside the Salam Mosque, in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, on August 24, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)

Palestinian officials in Lebanon have reportedly reached a deal with authorities in Beirut to hand over suspects in refugee camps involved in “security incidents,” Lebanese media reported early Monday.

Fatah officials pledged during a meeting with MP Bahia Hariri from the ruling Future bloc on Saturday to help maintain stability in Lebanon, even if it meant turning over their own, the Beirut-based Daily Star reported.

The meeting came a day after Israeli planes reportedly hit a Palestinian site in Lebanon in response to a rocket attack in northern Israel last week, and amid a series of bombings across Lebanon over the past weeks that have threatened to plunge the country into chaos.

On Saturday, Lebanese officials apprehended a suspect involved in a double bombing of two mosques in Tripoli which killed 47 people and left scores more injured on Friday, the deadliest attack since the end of Lebanon’s civil war over two decades ago.

“We support peace, stability and unity in this country, and we have informed MP Hariri that we will do our utmost to safeguard peace and stability and to uncover [the identities] of those mercenaries [responsible for the blasts],” Fathi Abu al-Ardat, the representative of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, was quoted by the Daily Star as saying after the meeting.

It was not clear if the discussion was based on specific security incidents.

While there was no claim of responsibility for the Tripoli attacks, many in Lebanon link them to the civil war next door in Syria, where a Sunni-led insurgency is fighting to oust a regime dominated by President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Hezbollah, which has clashed with the Said Hariri-led Future movement, has openly declared its guerrillas are fighting alongside Assad’s forces against the Syrian rebels, who enjoy both sympathy and support from many in Lebanon’s Sunni community.

Hezbollah’s overt role in the Syrian civil war has sent sectarian tensions soaring in Lebanon, and street clashes have erupted on numerous occasions in recent months. Preachers at both of the mosques targeted Friday are virulent critics of both Hezbollah and Assad.

Recently, small-scale clashes have taken a turn toward Iraq-style car bombings. Just over a week ago, a car bomb targeted an overwhelmingly Shiite district south of Beirut controlled by Hezbollah, killing 27 people.

Riad Kahwaji, CEO of the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis, a Middle East-based security think tank, told the NOW Lebanon website that Lebanon’s complicated sectarian divisions made cooperation between security forces in order to stop terror attacks especially difficult.

“When you have a country that has so much political division, with so much sectarian conflict in the region, and the presence of armed militias, all this makes the task of security services very complicated,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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