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Fresh clashes break out at Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon

SIDON, Lebanon — Clashes broke out late Thursday in a restive Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon that was rocked by deadly fighting just weeks ago, an AFP correspondent said.

The fighting in the Ein al-Helweh camp once again pitted members of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement against members of rival terror groups, a source within the Palestinian camp’s leadership said, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The AFP correspondent in the southern city of Sidon, where the camp is located, reported the sound of automatic weapon fire and rocket launchers.

Dozens of families with women and children were fleeing from the camp’s northern end where the clashes were concentrated, the correspondent added.

Ein al-Helweh is home to more than 54,000 registered refugees. It was created for Palestinians who were driven out or fled during the 1948 war that coincided with Israel’s creation.

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Thousands of Palestinians who sought refuge from Syria’s civil war have also joined the camp in recent years.

Members of the Palestinian Fatah group run to take position during clashes that erupted with Islamist factions in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on July 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammad Zaatari, File)

Outbreaks of violence are common in Ein al-Helweh, but days of violence that began in late July left some 12 dead and dozens wounded.

The clashes were the worst in years, and saw fighting between Fatah members and Islamist militants.

With the renewed clashes, some 200 people took refuge in a mosque on Thursday night, the correspondent said, adding that the Lebanese army had cut off the camp’s two northern entrances.

By long-standing convention, the army does not enter Palestinian refugee camps, leaving the factions themselves to handle security.

The United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) had warned last week that armed militants were occupying its schools in the camp, calling on “all armed groups to immediately vacate its premises.”

Tiny Lebanon hosts an estimated 250,000 Palestinian refugees, according to UNRWA.

Most live in one of Lebanon’s 12 official camps, and face a variety of legal restrictions, including on employment.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report