SIDON-Two fighters and a civilian were killed Saturday in clashes at a south Lebanon Palestinian camp, official media reported, as Prime Minister Najib Mikati rebuked Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas over the spiralling violence.
Renewed fighting broke out late Thursday in the Ain al-Helweh refugee camp on the outskirts of the coastal city of Sidon, just weeks after deadly violence pitted members of Abbas’s Fatah movement against militants. Ongoing clashes inside the camp on Saturday killed “one person from Fatah” and a militant, while “a civilian was killed by a stray bullet” outside the camp, Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) said, reporting dozens of others wounded. “What is taking place does not serve the Palestinian cause at all and is a serious offence to the Lebanese state” and the city of Sidon, Mikati told Abbas in a phone call on Saturday, his office said in a statement. Mikati emphasised “the priority of ending military operations and cooperating with Lebanese security forces to address tensions”, according to the statement on X, formerly Twitter.
Heavy clashes broke out on Saturday morning after calm had largely prevailed overnight, an AFP correspondent in Sidon said, reporting the sound of automatic and heavy weapons. The fighting was focused on a school compound belonging to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, a source in the camp’s Palestinian leadership told AFP on condition of anonymity. UNRWA had previously warned that militants were occupying its schools in the camp.
Ain al-Helweh is home to more than 54,000 registered refugees and thousands of Palestinians who joined them in recent years from Syria, fleeing war in the neighbouring country. The camp, Lebanon’s largest, was created for Palestinians who were driven out or fled during the 1948 war that coincided with Israel’s creation. The Lebanese army, which by long-standing convention does not enter the camps and leaves Palestinian factions to handle security there, called on “all relevant parties in the camp to stop the fighting”.