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3 injured in armed clashes at Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon

Feb. 25, 2017 8:48 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 27, 2017 8:22 P.M.)
BEIRUT (Ma'an) -- Three people were reportedly injured in clashes between supporters of the Fatah movement and gunmen affiliated to “fundamentalist Islamic groups” in Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp on Saturday.

Activists shared reports on the Arabic-language Facebook page “Friends of Ain al-Hilweh Refugee Camp," which said that the clashes broke out in the upper part of the camp around midday Saturday.

The reports said that the Lebanese army closed the main entrance to the Palestinian refugee camp to protect civilians from being caught up in the clashes.

Lebanon’s National News Agency later confirmed the reports, though it said that only two people, including a woman, were injured in the violence. It remained unclear if those injured were civilians or fighters involved in the clashes.

The report said that leaders of Palestinian factions met in the camp’s mosque and made efforts to contain the fighting and prevent a serious deterioration of the security station in Ain al-Hilweh.

A ceasefire agreement was made after the conveners reached out via telephone to the commander of the Palestinian national security forces in Ain al-Hilweh Subhi, Abu Arab, and the commander of the local Sunni fundamentalist group Asbat al-Ansarin.

Last month, UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services to Palestinian refugees, condemned armed violence in the Palestinian refugee camp, after a number of civilians were killed by live fire during clashes.

A spike in armed violence between Fatah supporters and Islamist groups in Ain al-Hilweh in December left two dead and at least five injured, with UNRWA suspending its operations in the camp as a result.

The camp has also been the site of recent confrontations between its Palestinian residents and the Lebanese army.

The largest and most crowded refugee camp in Lebanon, Ain al-Hilweh is home to some 54,116 registered refugees who fled their villages during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, according to the UN.

However, the population significantly increased since 2011 as a result of the Syrian war, as Palestinians have been displaced a second time from refugee camps across Syria, with development nonprofit organization Anera estimating the camp's population to be closer to 120,000.

According to UNRWA, Ain al-Hilweh suffers from high rates of poverty and poor housing conditions, which have been further stressed as a result of overcrowding in recent years.

Palestinians in Lebanon have the highest percentage of their population living in abject poverty from among the other countries the organization serves, according to UNRWA.

Facing discriminatory employment policies, Palestinians in Lebanon are restricted from working in over 20 professions or claiming the same rights as other non-citizens in Lebanon, while all the refugee camps suffer from overcrowding, poor housing conditions, and a lack of infrastructure.
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