BEIRUT — The Joint Palestinian Security Force, made up of representatives of various political factions, will begin deploying "on Monday at 1 p.m." in Ain al-Hilweh (South Lebanon), its commander, Mahmoud Ajoury, told our correspondent Sunday. Originally scheduled for Sunday morning before being postponed to the evening and then to Monday, this measure aims to restore stability in the Palestinian refugee camp after two successive waves of clashes in recent weeks that have left dozens dead and wounded.
The most recent clashes between the Fatah movement, close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Islamist groups such as Jund al-Sham and al-Shabab al-Muslim (Muslim Youth), shook the camp and surrounding Saida neighborhoods September 7-14. Clashes between the same groups also broke out in early August.
In all, these clashes left at least 30 people dead. They reflect internal struggles among these factions seeking to assert themselves in the camp, all against a backdrop of easing relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and American efforts to bring Saudi Arabia closer to Israel. Ain al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian camp in Lebanon, is home to around 80,000 of the country's 250,000 Palestinian refugees.
A meeting of the members and commanders of the joint security force took place at 11:30 a.m. Sunday to deliver needed equipment.
"If this maneuver is successful, it will be followed by the deployment of the joint force in the UNRWA (in charge of Palestinian refugees) schools, after the remaining fighters have withdrawn," Ajoury said earlier.
These fighters, from both Fatah and Islamist groups, have been present in the UN agency's schools, at the intersection between the conflicting parties' areas of influence, since the end of the fighting in August. Their presence prevented a complete easing of tensions despite the ceasefire, and was criticized by the UN, which has repeatedly warned of the occupation of its premises and its impact on the schooling of young people in the camp.
The surrender of the Armouch murderers
"If the ceasefire is respected and the fighters withdraw [from the schools]," Ajoury said, "this will make it possible to carry out the rest of the points of the agreement favoring the handover of the people suspected in the [July] killing Abu Ashraf Armouch," the former head of Palestinian National Security in the Saida region.
While Ajoury is optimistic, the deployment of the joint Palestinian security force in the above-mentioned locations does not seem to meet with unanimous approval. A Palestinian source in the camp felt that its deployment "is just a waste of time."
"It will be deployed in places where there is no need for it to be present, and not as agreed," the source told L'Orient Today, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It was necessary for the fighters to withdraw from UNRWA's schools for it to deploy there and hand over those being pursued."
Reporting contributed by Muntasser Abdallah