A Fatah official and five of his companions were killed in an armed ambush in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh near the southern Lebanese city of Sidon on Sunday, according to media sources from the camp. The attack was blamed on “militant groups” by Palestinian factions, who said they were cracking down on groups and fugitives seeking refuge inside the camp’s overcrowded neighborhoods.
The assassination of Abu Ashraf al-Armouchi, a Fatah official, sparked tension and sporadic clashes in the camp, which is home to more than 100,000 refugees. Earlier on Sunday, one person was killed and six wounded, including two children, following nightly clashes inside the camp. The clashes erupted after an unknown gunman tried to assassinate another, Mahmoud Khalil, killing one of the latter’s companions.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported that six people were injured in the clashes, including two children. In the same context, the Lebanese army announced that a soldier was injured by a mortar shell from the clashes that landed inside a military center. The army said the soldier was hit by shrapnel and was in stable condition.
During the clashes, rifles and rocket launchers were used inside the overcrowded camp, and ambulances were seen advancing through the camp’s narrow streets to transport the wounded to a hospital. Most of the clashes have stopped, although state media have reported that there are still sporadic exchanges of fire. Many residents fled the exchange of fire to nearby neighborhoods inside the camp.
Ain al-Hilweh is Lebanon’s largest and most volatile refugee camp, where Lebanese authorities have no jurisdiction and security is maintained by Palestinian factions. The camp has witnessed frequent outbreaks of violence between rival groups and factions over the years, as well as attempts by groups to establish a foothold in the camp. The camp also suffers from poor living conditions, high unemployment, and lack of basic services.
It is worth mentioning that the tension between Hezbollah and Israel on the Lebanese-Israeli border has increased in recent weeks. The Israeli occupation has allegedly shot down Hezbollah drones and warned of severe consequences if Hezbollah continues to threaten its security and sovereignty. The border incidents have also complicated the US-mediated negotiations between the Israeli occupation and Lebanon over their maritime boundary, which could affect the exploitation of natural gas resources in the Mediterranean Sea.