BEIRUT — Heavy armed clashes broke out Saturday evening in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Saida, in southern Lebanon, between two families. Automatic weapons, hand grenades and RPGs were used in the fighting, which left at least seven people injured, according to our correspondent in the region. The hourslong clashes ceased late Sunday evening after Palestinian officials intervened.
The clashes erupted between the Bahti family, supporters of the “Ansar Allah” movement, and the Qiblawi family, supporters of the Fatah movement, who fought over which family would open a store at a particular premises in the camp's commercial market, our correspondent reported. Calls for a ceasefire were made, including from the camp’s mosques.
According to our correspondent, the clashes resulted in significant damage to a number of cars and several of the camp's buildings, some of which were set on fire, with clouds of smoke rising from some houses and shops.
The clashes that lasted for at least three hours stopped late Saturday evening when Palestinian Ambassador Ashraf Dabour was able to mediate a ceasefire agreement between the families. The heavily populated Ain al-Hilweh camp is regularly the scene of shootings and clashes, either because of personal disputes or because of tensions between the various Palestinian factions represented there.
The head of the Palestinian joint force in Ain al-Hilweh, Abdul Hadi al-Asadi, explained in a statement Sunday that Palestinian officials in the camp agreed to work on removing weapons from "the streets and the roofs of the camp" following a meeting that took place this morning with the Palestinian Joint Action Committee. They also agreed to set up a checkpoint for the Palestinian security force at the vegetable market junction in the camp, adding that there will be subsequent steps taken toward a solid solution to the camp's repeated outbreaks of violence.
Regarding the delay in the ceasefire, Asadi said: "The intensity of the gunfire and exchange of grenades prevented the joint force from making it to the conflict area, but extensive calls were made with all the political forces as well as the Palestinian Embassy to reach a ceasefire."
Additional reporting by Muntasser Abdallah.