Six dead as violence continues in Palestinian camp in Lebanon

Smoke rises from buildings in Ain el-Helweh, Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, during ongoing clashes between Palestinian security forces and Islamist fighters, in this August 21, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 24 August 2017
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Six dead as violence continues in Palestinian camp in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Six people were killed and more than 40 injured in fighting that erupted in the Ain Al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon.
The clashes, between Fatah and two extremist groups, reached their peak on Wednesday and coincided with the battle waged by the Lebanese Army against Daesh in the barren areas of Ras Baalbek and Al-Qaa, close to the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Sniper fire caused the displacement of a large number of residents of the refugee camp to Sidon. The sniper fire reached Sidon’s Saray building and shattered windows of the offices of the Regional Administration of the State Security in the south, causing light injuries to two security members.
All attempts to stop the fighting have failed over the past five days, with the clashes paralyzing all neighborhoods near the camp.
The fighting between Fatah, Bilal Badr and Bilal Arqub was focused heavily on two main fronts in the Tiri neighborhood and Jabal Al-Halib, with the groups armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Sidon’s Mayor Mohammed Al-Saudi urged the fighters to cease fire, saying: “No one will benefit from these clashes.”
A meeting of the national and Islamic political leaderships in Sidon was held to discuss attempts to achieve a permanent cease-fire after the failure of all previous attempts, according to a statement sent to Arab News on Wednesday.
The meeting ended with the formation of two committees, one of which headed to the Safsaf neighborhood to meet representatives of the Muslim Youth. The other met with the leadership of Fatah, asking for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of armed militants, which would pave the way for the deployment of a large joint Islamic force.
The two sides, however, failed to come to an agreement with the committees, both insisting on their own demands.
Bilal Badr and Bilal Arqub rejected the participation of Fatah in any joint force deployed in the Tiri neighborhood. Fatah insisted on remaining at the sites it had seized, including the Sahoun neighborhood. At the time of going to print, attempts were yet again being made to achieve a cease-fire in Ain Al-Hilweh.
In a phone call with Arab News, Palestinian Embassy spokesmanWissam Abu Zeid refused to comment on what exactly was happening in the camp.


US-backed Syria rebels seize Captagon in IS drug bust: coalition

Updated 1 min 24 sec ago
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US-backed Syria rebels seize Captagon in IS drug bust: coalition

BEIRUT: Syrian rebels backed by the US-led coalition have seized a massive drug stash worth around $1.4 million during operations against the Daesh group, the alliance said Monday.
Maghawir Al-Thawra, a rebel faction trained by both the United States and Jordan, captured and destroyed the narcotics on May 31 in southeast Syria, the coalition said in a statement.
The drugs were estimated to have a black market value of around $1.4 million (1.2 million euros).
“The cache included more than 300,000 pills of Captagon, an illegal drug frequently trafficked and used by Daesh members,” it said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
They were seized during Maghawir Al-Thawra’s operations surrounding the Al-Tanf base, which lies along Syria’s border with Jordan.
Captagon is classified by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as an “amphetamine-type stimulant” and usually blends amphetamines, caffeine and other substances.
It is often referred to as the “jihadist” drug, as fighters who take it say it helps them stay awake for days and that it numbs their senses, allowing them to kill with abandon.
For at least two years, British and US commandos have been training and advising rebels fighting IS from Al-Tanf.
A 55-kilometer (34 mile) de-confliction zone around the garrison is meant to serve as a buffer between US-backed forces and fighters loyal to Syria’s regime.
The US-led coalition said the seizure of the drugs happened within the zone.
Maghawir Al-Thawra announced the drug bust last week in a dramatic video published on its Facebook page.
It included stills of dozens of plastic bags filled with yellow and white pills, which were later shown being set on fire.