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1 dead as Palestinians clash in Lebanon camp

Aug. 6, 2011 10:11 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 8, 2011 1:12 P.M.)
BEIRUT (AFP) -- One person was killed and eight others wounded in Lebanon's notorious Ain Al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp on Saturday when armed clashes erupted between rival factions, an official in the camp said.

"One civilian was killed and eight others wounded, most of them in critical condition, in clashes today in the camp which involved rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles," Munir Maqdah, who is in charge of security at the camp near the southern coastal city of Sidon, told AFP.

Maqdah said a tense calm had returned to the camp in the evening, as most militants and residents attended evening prayers before breaking the sunrise-to-sunset fast of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

An AFP correspondent in the camp said clashes erupted Saturday afternoon between members of the mainstream Fatah faction, loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Sunni Islamist group Jund al-Sham, or "Soldiers of Damascus."

The correspondent said the army had cordoned off all four entry points to the camp but had also allowed families to flee Ain Al-Helweh, as gunmen could be seen patrolling the streets inside.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Fatah official told AFP the clashes were linked to the arrest on Friday of a Jund Al-Sham member accused of planting a bomb in the camp targeting Fatah's Lebanon commander Mahmud Issa, alias "Al-Lino."

By long-standing convention, the Lebanese army does not enter the country's 12 refugee camps, leaving security inside to the Palestinians themselves.

Ain Al-Helweh, the largest Palestinian camp in the country, is home to about 50,000 refugees and is known to harbor extremists and fugitives.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees estimates that some 425,000 Palestinian refugees are living in Lebanon, a country with a population of four million.

Others, however, estimate the number to be closer to 250,000.

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