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Palestinian leadership plans to 'force out' wanted Lebanese out of Ain al-Hilweh

March 2, 2017 4:44 P.M. (Updated: March 2, 2017 5:35 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian leaders in Lebanon demanded that all wanted men who are not Palestinian leave Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, according to a statement released on Thursday.

Recent armed violence in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon left an 18- and a 12-year-old Palestinian dead on Tuesday, while at least eight others were injured -- including a pregnant woman.

Clashes began anew Monday evening, when a bomb detonated in front of a call center inside the camp, breaking a “cautious calm” that had prevailed after Palestinian factions reached a ceasefire agreement Sunday night to halt violent clashes that erupted over the weekend.

Palestinian faction leaders said they had agreed during a meeting at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut to demand that all wanted men immediately leave the camp, while reiterating their commitment to security and stability in Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon, particularly in Ain al-Hilweh.

The faction leaders also stressed that they would continue conducting efforts with Lebanese authorities in order to curb issues with Palestinians wanted by authorities, adding that they would not tolerate anyone who threatens the security situation or harms the Palestinian relationship with Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary Fathi Abu al-Aradat said on Thursday that an agreement had been established in collaboration with the Lebanese government to turn in wanted Lebanese hiding in Ain al-Hilweh. Al-Aradat said that Palestinian forces in the camp would "force out" any wanted Lebanese from the camp and turn them in to Lebanese security forces.

He added that the situation would be dealt with by developing a force in collaboration with all Palestinian factions responsible for maintaining peace and security, while facilitating Palestinian leadership to visit Saida in order to hold meetings with political leaders there, as any deterioration of the security situation in Ain al-Hilweh would negatively affect Saida, located near the camp.

Al-Aradat confirmed that the situation in the camp had returned to normal since the ceasefire was agreed upon at the Palestinian embassy.

A spike in armed violence between Fatah supporters and Islamist groups in Ain al-Hilweh in December left two dead and at least five injured.

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 has 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 UNRWA, Ain al-Hilweh suffers from high rates of poverty and poor housing conditions, which have been further stressed as a result of overcrowding 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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