BEIRUT — A ceasefire agreement was reached on Thursday in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian camp, marking the end of a day of talks initiated by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. The aim was to bring an end to the ongoing clashes within the Palestinian camp in southern Lebanon, a conflict that had tragically claimed the lives of more than fifteen individuals within the span of just one week.
Effective as of 6 p.m., the ceasefire immediately silenced the guns within the camp, according to both our on-site correspondent, Mountasser Abdallah, and the official National News Agency (NNA).
The death toll in clashes that re-ignited last Thursday in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near Saida rose to at least 18, after fighting continued on Wednesday night, Riad Abou al-Inen, the head of the Palestinian Red Crescent told L'Orient Today. According to Abou al-Inen, injuries rose to more than 100, including civilians and fighters.
Contacted by our correspondent in South Lebanon, the director of al-Hamshari Hospital, located 500 meters from the camp, revealed that their facility alone "has handled 30 bodies of victims killed in the clashes that occurred in the camp between July 30 and September 14." The hospital has also treated 205 wounded individuals.
Heavy ammunition such as RPGs and automatic weapons were being fired on Wednesday night in Ain al-Hilweh, a security source from the camp told L'Orient-Le Jour. The source added that some of the thousands of residents who were displaced by the recent fighting have been unable to find a place to stay.
Fresh political discussions
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri met with Hamas representatives, including the organization's Vice President Moussa Abou Marzouk, in Ain al-Tineh on Thursday to discuss the clashes.
Following the meeting, Abou Marzouk condemned the clashes and called for an immediate ceasefire. « We are confident that [Berri] will succeed in his endeavor and we pledged to him that we will do our best [to achieve] security, justice and the extradition of the accused persons, » he added.
Berri also met Thursday with Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad, in the presence of the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabour.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, Ahmad alleged there was a « foreign conspiracy » against the Ain al-Hilweh camp. He questioned why the fighting began and claimed an operation against Fatah involving many groups was underway.
Ahmad expressed hopes that the cease-fire would succeed and said Fatah is ready « to help and coordinate with the Lebanese state and all its agencies » with the hand-over of the alleged killers of a Fatah-affiliated security chief.
It comes after Army commander Gen. Joseph Aoun visited an army base in Saida on Thursday, where he met personnel and spoke about the Ain al-Hilweh clashes, the Lebanese Army said on X (formerly Twitter). A L'Orient Today correspondent in Saida observed relative calm in the area.
On Thursday as well, Moussa Abou Marzouk held talks with General Tony Kahwagi, who heads the Lebanese Army's intelligence services. In a statement released after the meeting, Hamas stated that it "acknowledged the role of the army, military intelligence, and all state institutions in Lebanon in achieving security and stability in Palestinian camps in Lebanon." The movement also emphasized "the necessity to continue all political and security efforts to maintain the ceasefire."
On Thursday morning, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine released a statement calling for the « complete abidance by the ceasefire and to apply all the terms agreed on by the Joint Palestinian Action Committee. » On his part, the President of the Municipal Council of Saida, Hazem Khodr Badih, expressed during a municipal council meeting on Thursday evening his hope that "the situation in the Ain al-Hilweh camp will achieve a lasting stabilization."
Clashes on Wednesday evening
A brief calm on Wednesday night after a joint call for a ceasefire by Fatah and Hamas was followed by resumed clashes between Fatah and the Islamist faction Muslim Youth.
The building where independent MP Ousama Saad lives was hit by stray bullets Wednesday night, damaging a window on the floor where his son Maarouf lives, Saad's media office told L'Orient Today.
Maarouf was in the same room as the broken window but was not injured.
Previous 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 UNRWA-run schools. A ceasefire for those clashes was reached after the initial fighting and lasted over a month. The clashes are reportedly centered around Islamists’ refusal to hand over the alleged killers of a Fatah-affiliated security chief.