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Lebanon halts construction of 'security wall' around Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp

Nov. 25, 2016 5:37 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 27, 2016 10:45 A.M.)
BERUIT (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Unified National Leadership of the Uprising said in a statement on Friday that the Lebanese military responded to its demands to halt construction on a “security wall” being built around a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.

The statement said that efforts were conducted by the leadership over the past few days in order to stop the construction of the wall around the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp.

In a meeting on Thursday between the leadership and the Lebanese intelligence director of the southern districts, Khader Hamouda, it was agreed that the Lebanese military would halt construction of the wall, according to the statement.

The statement also noted that Palestinian leadership would “conduct procedures” during the next two weeks to deal with the “security situation” in Palestinian refugee camps in order to achieve stability and security in Lebanon.

Palestinian leadership also thanked Lebanese intelligence forces and military personnel for responding to their demands, adding that the leadership would maintain positive relations with their “Lebanese brothers” for the future.

The construction of the “security wall" around the Ain al-Hilweh broke ground on Sunday, as critics decried the construction, calling it an “apartheid wall,” and highlighting its similarities to Israel’s separation wall that cuts through the occupied West Bank.

The largest and most crowded refugee camp in Lebanon, Ain al-Hilweh is home to some 54,116 registered refugees who fled their villages during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 , according to the UN.

However, the population significantly increased since 2011 as a result of the Syrian war, as Palestinians have been displaced a second time from refugee camps across Syria, with development nonprofit organization Anera estimating the camp's population to be closer to 120,000.

According to Lebanese media, the wall was being constructed as part of a deal between Palestinian factions and Lebanese authorities in order to enforce calmness after recent confrontations between Palestinians in the camp and the Lebanese army.

According to UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services to some five million Palestinian refugees, the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp is characterized by high rates of poverty and poor housing conditions, which have been further stressed as a result of overcrowding as the population of the camp has ballooned in recent years.

Palestinians in Lebanon have the highest percentage of their population living in abject poverty from among the other countries the organization serves, according to UNRWA.

Facing discriminatory employment policies, Palestinians in Lebanon are restricted from working in over 20 professions or claiming the same rights as other non-citizens in Lebanon, while all the refugee camps suffer from overcrowding, poor housing conditions, and a lack of infrastructure.
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