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NOW

Clashes erupt in Ain al-Helweh

Ain al-Helweh. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayat)

Clashes erupted Tuesday morning in the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp in South Lebanon’s Sidon between a Palestinian faction and an Islamist group, a day after the latter’s leader was shot in the camp.

Eleven people were injured in the fighting between members of the pro-Syrian regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) and the Islamist Bilal Badr group, the National News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, LBC television said that the clashes erupted after a grenade exploded near the PFLP-GC office in the camp's Fawqani Street.

Future TV reported at noon that the clashes ended and tense calm prevailed over the Palestinian refugee camp. Afterward, camp residents held a march to call for an end to internal fighting.

Fatah Movement official Mounir al-Moqdah told NOW correspondent Karen Boulos that his party is "working to control the situation in Ain al-Helweh and end the gunfire."

"Fatah did not take a decision to open fire, on the contrary everyone is working to control the situation and prevent the renewal of clashes.”

 

Tuesday’s violence came after Islamist leader Bilal Badr was injured Monday in a gunbattle in the camp that left one person dead and four others wounded.

Al-Akhbar newspaper said that Monday's clashes began after Badr and his companions aimed their guns at a member from the Fatah Movement, Abd as-Saadi, which prompted the latter to shoot at them.

Badr and his fellow Islamists were hospitalized after being shot multiple times, and most of them are in a critical condition, the report added.

Moqdah told NOW that an investigation will reveal who shot Badr, but added that the clashes involved members of the Fatah Movement.

 

The Bilal Badr group is an Islamist faction led by its namesake, who is known for his anti-Syrian regime sentiments. However, information on him is shrouded in mystery, amid reports he has formed a group to target pro-Damascus Palestinian groups in Ain al-Helweh.

Moqdah told NOW that "Badr is followed by a [small] armed group, [and] they have friends [in the ranks] of Islamist groups.”

 

Later in the day, Sidon’s Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya issued a statement expressing its fear that this incident “aimed to strike the camp from within,” and called on everyone not to “fall into [a state of] strife.”

 

The troubled Ain al-Helweh refugee camp has been the scene of recurring violence as Islamist and secular Palestinian factions have vied for power within the area.

Gunmen march through Sidon's Ain al-Helweh camp. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayat)

An emergency meeting of a committee of Palestinian parties convened in the camp’s An-Nour Mosque