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Official: Fatah, PLO have lost control of Lebanon refugee camps

Feb. 23, 2014 10:23 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 26, 2014 10:06 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Fatah movement and the Palestine Liberation Organization have lost control of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, a Lebanon-based Fatah official said on Saturday.

Fatah leader in Lebanon Muneer Maqdah told Ma'an on Saturday that Lebanese authorities told the PLO to adjust the situation in order "to avoid more aggravations" which they warned could have "negative impacts" on the refugee camps and on Lebanon more broadly.

The statement comes two days after a Palestinian was identified as one of the culprits of a double suicide bombing targeting the Iranian cultural center in southern Beirut. Officials are increasingly worried that economic deprivation in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon has laid fertile ground for Wahhabi militant groups.

Asked whether PLO officials have prepared a security plan to neutralize "extremists" in the refugee camps, Maqdah said such plans could be set up in cooperation with Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad when he visits Lebanon.

Maqdah highlighted that al-Ahmad is in charge of the refugee camps in Lebanon, and that a delegation headed by al-Ahmad is expected to visit Lebanon soon in order to address the situation in the camps.

The Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are technically under the control of PLO since a 1969 agreement, and as a result the Lebanese army largely refrains from entering or policing them.

However, Maqdah said that although there were previously 2,000 Palestinian soldiers guarding the Palestinian refugee camps, they have since been integrated into the Palestinian national security forces.

Only 70 guards remain, and all they do is organize traffic in the camps, he said, highlighting that about half of the guards are based in the notoriously violent Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon in southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, 2,000 officers who each receive a salary of $200 a month, are not qualified to keep security and order and prevent chaos in the camps, he added.

There are an estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and they are denied the right to own property and work in many fields under strict laws established to prevent their naturalization in the country.

Around 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the State of Israel, and today their descendants number around five million, spread across the world.
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