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Fatah, Hamas hold meeting in Lebanon to address violence in Ain al-Hilweh

Aug. 22, 2017 8:11 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 23, 2017 9:57 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Members of the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas held an emergency meeting in Lebanon on Tuesday evening at the Palestinian embassy in order to discuss the security situation in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, which has seen an uptick of violence in past months.  

Last week, deadly violence erupted in Ain al-Hilweh, as armed clashes broke out between Palestinian forces and fighters affiliated to Islamist hardliner Bilal Badr -- wanted by Lebanese authorities on numerous charges. The violence left at least three dead and several others wounded. 

Similar deadly incidents have occurred in the refugee camp over the past several months. 

Both Fatah and Hamas agreed on facing extremism in the refugee camp and persons who “disrupt the order” during the meeting, according to Palestinian sources, by working together to establish a “united national stand” and organizing joint efforts to achieve security and stability in Ain al-Hilweh. 

The movement also agreed on continuing bilateral meetings and sessions with Islamic and national Palestinian factions to guarantee security in the refugee camp. 

By longstanding convention, the Lebanese army does not enter Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, leaving Palestinian factions to handle security themselves.

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 the UN, 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.      
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