BEIRUT - Fighting in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp reignited between Fatah and Islamist groups on Wednesday night - despite a ceasefire reached Monday.
Fighting resumed Wednesday afternoon, with Fatah and al-Chabab al-Moslem fighters exchanging rocket fire on the front lines of the Hattine, Ras el-Ahmar and Jabal el-Halib neighborhoods. A Palestinian source told L'Orient-Le Jour that Fatah launched a failed attack on Islamist factions positioned in the Hattine neighborhood. According to the source, the attack resulted in the death of two Fatah members and left several others wounded. Rockets landed in the Taamir neighborhood, causing fires.
Interviewed by the NNA, Youssef Zariï, a Fatah spokesman, said that Fatah positions "were attacked today by terrorist forces, which forced our elements to react" and that "no progress has been made by either side." He also claimed that "there is a regional and foreign decision to stir up discord within the camp to implement the destructive and displacement project against our people," he also said.
The director of the Palestinian Red Crescent told L'Orient-Le Jour that Wednesday's clashes left seven people dead and 24 wounded. Among the dead was Khaled Abou el-Naaj, a Fatah commander. A member of the Islamic Jihad, Ibrahim al-Mongoule, sustained a leg injury from rocket shrapnel and was treated inside the camp.
According to a Fatah-affiliated media outlet, two Palestinian Red Crescent paramedics were wounded when an ambulance came under fire. The camp's al-Nida al-Insani hospital and the al-Hamchari hospital, 500 meters from the camp, made urgent requests for blood donations to treat the wounded.
Since last Thursday, 17 people have died and 140 were left injured.
The municipality of the village of Maghdoucheh issued a statement calling on local residents to "'be cautious." "Citizens have not respected the instructions and warnings of the security forces and are gathering at the entrance to the area of Our Lady of Mantara [Saydet el-Mantara] to watch the clashes in the Ain el-Heloue camp," the statement read.
The ceasefire was announced after a meeting convened under the aegis of Lebanese General Security, and was reinforced with a joint statement issued by Hamas and Fatah. In the joint statement, the two rivals pledged their commitment to the ceasefire and appealed once again for the surrender of those suspected in the assassination case of Abu Ashraf al-Armoushi, the camp's Fatah-affiliated security chief who was killed in July. At the meeting, Fatah was represented by a delegation headed by Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of its central committee who arrived to Beirut Tuesday. Hamas' vice-president, Moussa Abou Marzouk, also took part in the discussions.
A Hamas delegation led by Abou Marzouk, also met with the Acting Director of General Security, General Elias Baissari, the Republic's Mufti Abdellatif Deriane, and the Secretary-General of the Jamaa Islamiya, Sheikh Mohammad Taqouch. They emphasized the need for all parties to continue their efforts to maintain the ceasefire, and ensured that Hamas is committed to maintaining security in Lebanon. Hamas also called for the withdrawal of fighters from the camp, the return of the displaced, and the surrender of wanted individuals. Abou Marzouk also stated that an agreement had been reached with Fatah.
On X (previously Twitter), Moussa Abou Marzouk strongly criticized "the destruction of the camp under the pretext of the fight against terrorism, without any concrete significant results." "We have made great efforts to help those in difficulty, but the promises made to us seem meaningless," Marzouk added.
After meeting, Hamas and Fatah reaffirmed their support of the Palestinian Joint Action Committee's decision to hand over those suspected of murdering Abu Ashraf al-Armoushi and his associates, as well as (Islamist) Abdul Rahman Farhoud to the Lebanese authorities, "so that it can take the necessary measures against them."
Hamas and Fatah also stated their commitment to facilitate the return of the camp's displaced, and to expel militants from occupied schools. Camp residents have taken refuge in the al-Mousali mosque.
The first clashes between Fatah and Islamist groups erupted in the camp at the end of July and since then, fighters from the rival factions have taken up positions in Ain al-Hilweh's schools. A previous ceasefire was reached after the initial clashes and lasted over a month.
A meeting took place at the Grand Serail on Wednesday between outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati, PLO Executive Committee member Azzam Ahmad, Palestinian Ambassador to Beirut Ashraf Dabbour, Fatah Secretary General Fathi Abou al-Ardat, and senior Lebanese security officials, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Lebanese Army and acting director of General Security, Gen. Elias Baissari.
After the meeting, Ahmad told the press that in his view, "outlawed terrorist elements remain determined to violate the ceasefire and continue to fire randomly, as if someone were instructing them to blow up the security situation in the camp, and also in Saida."
"The current political and economic conditions in Lebanon and the presidential vacancy must not be exploited to undermine Lebanon," Ahmad added. He said a deadline was set for the handing over of Armoushi's murder suspects, and that "all options" remained on the table to ensure a resolution to the matter.
Reporting contributed by Muntasser Abdallah