Warring Palestinians are killing each other in refugee camps

Violent clashes have broken out between Palestinians in the Ain El-Hilweh refugee camp, who have almost no rights in Lebanon, and the Jenin camp. 

By Hugh Fitzgerald, FrontPage Magazine

In the Palestinian “refugee” camps of Lebanon, the inhabitants are ill-treated by the Lebanese government. They are kept confined to the camps, unable to obtain Lebanese citizenship, and banned from working at most professions. But inside the camps, they are given free rein to do what they do best: that is, they’ve just now been trying to kill one another. It’s not surprising: Arab society is inherently violent; the Qur’an itself is full of violent passages; so are the hadith. Muhammad, the Perfect Man and Model of Conduct, fought in 28 military campaigns. He also took part in decapitating between 600 and 900 members of the Banu Qurayza, a Jewish tribe in Medina. The hadith are full of records of battles lost and won, incessant violence, treacheries, murders most foul of every variety, including the deaths meted out to those who dared to mock Muhammad, including Asma bint Marwan, Ka’b bin al-Ashraf, and Abu ‘Afak, by Muhammad’s loyal followers.

“I have been made victorious through terror,” Muhammad proclaimed in a famous hadith. More on the violence, that has been going on — so far — for three days in Ain al-Hilweh, the largest of the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, can be found here: “Clashes continue for a third day in Ain al-Hilweh as ceasefire efforts fail,” by Tzvi Joffre, Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2023:

Clashes between Fatah and an Islamist group in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon continued for a third day on Tuesday, as efforts to reach a ceasefire continued to fail.

Heavy machine gunfire and RPG fire was reported in the clashes. Repeated efforts to reach a ceasefire have failed to establish a lasting calm so far.

Since the clashes began, 11 people have been killed and dozens more have been injured. Hundreds of families have been displaced and dozens of buildings have been completely destroyed amid the clashes in the refugee camp as well.

Already there have been almost as many deaths from these internecine clashes as resulted from the IDF’s 44-hour raid into the Jenin camp, when 12 fighters from the terror groups PIJ and Hamas were killed.

Amid the clashes, an RPG and gunshots were fired toward near where journalists were reporting in the camp. No injuries were reported in the incident. Paramedics were also forced to withdraw from the camp due to the heavy gunfire in the area. An RPG also fell near a mosque in Sidon where displaced families were sheltered, according to elNashra.

No one in the international media has bothered to report yet on these clashes inside Ain al-Hilweh; only the Israeli and Arab media have so far deemed the story worthy of attention. But you can just imagine what would happen if the IDF had been involved and behaved as the Palestinian gunmen have been doing — that is, if the IDF had fired toward journalists, forced paramedics to withdraw, and launched RPGs in the direction of a mosque. All hell would have broken loose, on the BBC, Canal Cinq, Deutsche Welle, and in the breathless reports in The GuardianThe Washington Post, and The New York Times.

On Tuesday afternoon, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that a delegation from the Palestinian Joint Action Authority in Lebanon and the Hezbollah-allied Amal movement was preparing to enter the camp to hold further discussions in an effort to stop the fighting.

They came, they talked, and in the end, nothing was accomplished. The rivalries for dominance in the camp, where 15 separate armed groups jostle for power, continue. Outbreaks of violence in the camp have become ever more frequent. Its population has swelled to 65,000, squeezed within one square kilometer, after tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees who had been living in Syria fled during the civil war for the relative safety of camps in Lebanon, including Ain al-Hilweh.

The clashes were sparked over the weekend after an unknown gunman tried to assassinate an Islamic militant, killing a companion of his instead. Hamas official Ayman Shana stated on Monday that an official named Mahmoud Abu Qatada was targeted on Saturday by a Fatah-affiliated gunman and that a man named Abd al-Rahman Farhood was killed.

This much we know: an “Islamic militant”– most likely meaning a member of Hamas, was the target of a Fatah-linked gunman. He missed his intended victim, and killed another, presumably — it’s not clear from the accounts we have — also a member of Hamas. Hamas and Fatah have been fighting with each other ever since 2007, when in Gaza Hamas killed or expelled hundreds of Fatah fighters in order to take complete control of the Strip. The bad blood that began in Gaza has been reproduced in rivalries between votaries of Fatah and Hamas in Palestinian camps all over the Middle East.

Later, on Sunday, Islamic militants assassinated Fatah official Abu Ashraf al-Armoushi and four other Fatah members in the camp, sparking a further escalation in the clashes. According to Shana, the assassination occurred after an agreement reached to hand over Zubaidat was delayed.

Apparently the original gunman, who killed Abd al-Rahman Farhood, was this Zubaidat, whom Fatah had promised to hand over to Hamas for punishment, and then changed its mind. Enraged Hamas members then murdered five members of Fatah, including a high-ranking official, Abu Ashraf al-Armoushi, thus suddenly raising the violence to a new high.

Amid the fighting on Sunday, a shell was fired toward a position belonging to the Lebanese Army near the camp, injuring a number of Lebanese soldiers. On Monday, an additional Lebanese soldier was injured amid the clashes, according to elNashra.

The violence spilled out beyond the confines of the camp, when on Sunday someone — it could have been anyone belonging to one of the 15 armed groups — fired at a Lebanese army position and wounded several soldiers. On Monday another soldier was wounded, hit by gunfire from inside the camp that went astray or, still more worrisome, that was deliberately aimed.

On Tuesday evening, large reinforcements of the Lebanese Army arrived in Sidon in light of the continuation of the clashes in Ain al-Hilweh.

The Lebanese Army does not intend to enter the Palestinian camps; its enhanced presence in Sidon is meant to reassure the Lebanese residents that whatever happens inside the camp, they will be safe.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah called for an immediate ceasefire in the camp during a speech on Tuesday, calling the situation “painful, sad, and unfortunate” and calling on anyone who can to work to stop the fighting as quickly as possible.

Such a plea for peace coming from Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, the chief troublemaker and sower of violence in the country for two decades, is a bit rich. For Nasrallah is the man responsible for starting a devastating war with Israel in 2006 that resulted in great damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure; he heads the terror group that negligently stored 2,500 tons of ammonium nitrates in Hangar #12 at the Port of Beirut, which then exploded on August 4, 2020, killing 240, wounding 6,000, causing $15 billion in damage, and making 300,000 Beirutis homeless; he continues to threaten to drag Lebanon into another war with the Jewish state.

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Here’s what I think will happen in Ain Al-Hilweh: another week, possibly two, of internecine warfare, mainly between Fatah and Hamas, but also dragging in, against Fatah, members of the PIJ and the PFLP. After many dozens of deaths, and hundreds of wounded, and terrific damage to the crowded camp, the bloodlust on all sides will have been temporarily sated. There will be a fragile ceasefire, but one that will be broken by one of the armed groups at the slightest provocation. What did you expect? These are the Muslims. This is the Middle East.