Lebanon + 1 more

Tension high at Lebanese refugee camp after security increase

News and Press Release
Originally published
Ain el-Hilweh, Lebanon (dpa) - Tensions between the Lebanese army and Palestinian guerrillas were high Monday at Lebanon's largest refugee camp in the country's south after a recent increase in security by Lebanese troops at the camp's entrances.

Under a policy instituted Sunday, Lebanon has forced persons entering and exiting the Ain el-Hilweh camp day or night to register at army checkpoints, creating long traffic delays.

The registration procedure was previously applied only from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

''Each refugee is now forced to wait for more than two hours to enter or leave the camps,'' said Khaled Aref, spokesman for the mainstream Palestinian movement Fatah at Ain el-Hilweh.

''Even Lebanese living in some areas of the camp are subjected to this measure,'' Aref said.

The measures came after reports indicating the possible involvement of a Palestinian in the July 7 attempted assassination of Defence Minister Elias Murr in a Christian suburb north of Beirut.

In a televised broadcast last Thursday, the pro-Syrian minister said he had information ''terrorist groups wanted by the law'' were hiding in refugee camps and had made attempts on his life.

The Lebanese army's measures on Sunday prompted Palestinians to block roads with flaming tires and concrete blocks for three hours, with some even throwing stones at troops manning checkpoints.

Lebanese troops were seen positioning themselves on rooftops overlooking the camp, and armed Palestinian guerrillas were also on the alert inside the camp.

''The situation is tense but we will not allow a clash between the Lebanese army and the Palestinian factions.... This is forbidden,'' Aref said.

Ain el-Hilweh, on the outskirts of the southern port city of Sidon, houses some 70,000 people and is a hotbed of inter-Palestinian factional disputes, frequently accompanied by non-lethal attacks.

Like the other 11 Palestinian camps in Lebanon, law and order is maintained by the Palestinian factions inside the camps, with Lebanese security forces only guarding the entrances.

According to Palestinian sources several meetings were held between Palestinian officials and the head of the Lebanese army intelligence in the south Brigadier Abbas Ibrahim to contain the situation.

According to the sources the Palestinian command inside the camp is discussing either rejecting the security measures and escalating militarily, or negotiating an ease of the restrictions.

Sidon Mayor Abdel-Rahman Bizri, who met with the Palestinian delegation, told dpa ''we cannot punish a whole population which include Lebanese and Palestinians and besiege them for accusations against a handful of suspects.''

''The Palestinians in Lebanon already live below the poverty line, Bizri added. ''These restrictions will add to their problems.''

There are some 367,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps scattered across Lebanon. dpa wh mga

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