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2 Palestinians killed, 4 injured after clashes erupt in Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp

March 24, 2017 9:33 P.M. (Updated: March 28, 2017 4:13 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Two Palestinians were killed and four were injured from Thursday night until Friday in Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp after a personal dispute erupted into clashes between the Fatah movement and an Islamic militant group, according to Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA).

NNA reported that the security situation in the camp had deteriorated on Thursday night after a dispute broke out between individuals of the Fatah movement and Jund al-Sham, an Islamic militant group. The clashes left Mahmoud Sayid killed and two others -- Mustafa Maqsoud and Muhammad Jalal -- injured.  

A ceasefire was brokered between the groups. However, it was short-lived, as an explosion erupted in the camp and injured a local woman.

NNA reported that “heavy shooting” resumed between the groups, leading to the death of Muhammad al-Jandawi, a member of the Palestinian national security forces.

According to NNA, the sound of live bullets, missiles, machine guns, and grenades could be heard in the camp until dawn hours.

On Friday, another Palestinian was injured as clashes continued into the day, NNA reported. Shops and vegetable markets in the area were closed in fear of ongoing clashes. According to NNA, mediators have attempted to make contacts with both sides to restore a ceasefire in the camp.

Late last month, armed violence in the refugee camp left an 18- and 12-year-old Palestinian dead, while at least eight others were injured -- including a pregnant woman.

The violence was strongly condemned by UNICEF and UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services to some five million Palestinian refugees.

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 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 has 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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