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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)
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.

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