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Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh remains tense as death toll rises to 3 Palestinians

March 25, 2017 2:01 P.M. (Updated: March 28, 2017 4:21 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After two Palestinians were killed and at least four others were injured in clashes in Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp between Thursday and Friday, renewed violence Friday evening left another Palestinian dead.

Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported that Palestinian refugee Ibrahim Hussein died of wounds he sustained during an armed "personal dispute" in the Jabal-al-Halib area inside the camp.

Members of the Fatah movement later reportedly caught the perpetrator, identified by NNA as Jihad Abd al-Mohti, and handed him over to Lebanese army intelligence authorities.

Saturday morning, NNA reported that the security situation Ain al-Hilweh remained tense, and that all social, educational, and medical institutions associated with UNRWA were closed for business, as streets were empty and citizens apprehensive of sniper fire.

Late last month, armed violence in the refugee camp left an 18- and 12-year-old Palestinian dead, while at least eight others were injured -- including a pregnant woman.

The violence was strongly condemned by UNICEF and UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services to some five million Palestinian refugees.

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, with UNRWA suspending its operations in the camp as a result.

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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