SIDON: Palestinian factions battled an extremist group in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon on Saturday in a second day of clashes that have killed at least two people, medics said.
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The clashes erupted on Friday night as a security force of leading Palestinian factions in the Ain Al Hilweh camp deployed under a new security plan, a source in the Palestinian Fatah faction said.
“It came under fire from a neighbourhood under the influence of extremist groups, which oppose the security plan of the factions and their deployment,” the source told AFP.
Palestinian factions in the camp accused a small militant group linked to an extremist of firing on the security force after demanding that the deployment not extend to its area of influence.
“The security force will be deployed throughout the camp to bring security to it, and there is no other solution,” Lebanon’s official National News Agency quoted a Fatah commander as saying.
Medical sources told AFP that the clashes killed two people and wounded 21, with at least one member of the security force among the dead.
An AFP correspondent on the outskirts of the camp said fighting was continuing on the narrow streets of its residential neighbourhoods, with the sound of machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades audible in much of the surrounding city of Sidon.
A resident of the camp’s Tireh district, where heavy clashes were ongoing, said the fighting had set at least seven houses alight and trapped dozens of families.
The fighting prompted the Lebanese army to take security measures at the entrance of the camp, including shutting the highway next to it.
And Lebanon’s health ministry announced it was evacuating patients from the Sidon governmental hospital adjacent to the camp and moving them to other facilities.
An AFP photographer saw members of the Lebanese Red Cross wheeling a baby in an incubator on a stretcher from the hospital into the back of an ambulance for transfer.
Ain Al Hilweh is home to multiple armed factions, and has been plagued by intermittent clashes between them as well as against smaller extremist groups.
In February, fighting erupted after Fatah pulled out of a joint security committee, prompting clashes that lasted days and killed one person.
By long-standing convention, Lebanon’s army does not enter Palestinian refugee camps, where security is managed by joint committees of Palestinian factions.
Ain Al Hilweh is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria.