Clashes resume between factions in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp

Clashes resume between factions in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp
Clashes broke out late on September 7, in the restive Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon that was rocked by deadly fighting just weeks ago. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 September 2023
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Clashes resume between factions in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp

Clashes resume between factions in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp
  • On Friday, a new round of fighting erupted, and rocket fire hit the city of Sidon, while about 2,500 families from the camp were displaced
  • The UNRWA school complex in the camp has become a barricade between the warring factions

BEIRUT: Clashes resumed in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp overnight, with heavy gunfire and shelling wounding at least 20 people and prompting residents of the camp and the surrounding area to flee on Friday.
The cease-fire between the Fatah movement in the Ain Al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon and extremist groups present in adjacent neighborhoods did not hold for more than five weeks.
On Friday, a new round of fighting erupted, and rocket fire hit the city of Sidon, while about 2,500 families from the camp were displaced.
The issue of handing over those involved in the assassination of the Fatah leader Brig. Gen. Abu Ashraf Al-Armoushi in the Ain Al-Hilweh camp late in July to the Lebanese authorities remains unresolved, despite the extremist groups announcing their agreement to it happening.
Among the groups are Jund Al-Sham and Al-Shabab Al-Muslim (Muslim Youth).
The UNRWA school complex in the camp has become a barricade between the warring factions, separated by the common school playground, which now serves as a line of contact.
Extremist groups occupy three schools within their territory in the neighborhoods of Al-Tawarek, Al-Taameer, and Al-Sikkah, while Fatah advanced toward three other schools facing them in the previous round of clashes and remained inside them.
UNRWA had urged the conflicting parties to vacate the schools and suspended operations in the camp as a warning measure.
Leaders in Sidon informed the Palestinian factions that schools cannot accommodate Palestinian students in the upcoming academic year, emphasizing the need for everyone to vacate UNRWA schools to restore normalcy.
A Palestinian security source told Arab News: “Clashes erupted on Wednesday night following news that the Fatah movement had been tasked by the Joint Palestinian Action Committee, comprising all Palestinian factions, including Islamist forces, to apprehend those responsible for the Al-Armoushi assassination.
“In response, extremist groups threw two hand grenades toward a location where Palestinian National Security Forces were stationed. Violent clashes persisted throughout the night, with efforts made by Lebanese and Palestinian leaders to de-escalate the situation. Clashes soon renewed Friday noon.”
Maher Shabaita, secretary of Fatah in Sidon, said: “The meeting of the Joint Palestinian Action Committee emphasized key objectives: preserving the camp’s security and stability, vacating schools occupied by militants, and surrendering the killers to the Lebanese state.
“The clashes were sparked by shots fired at Fatah positions, and Fatah was acting in self defense.”
A rocket landed on the roof of the government building of Sidon Saray, and an office of the General Security, causing minor injuries to a policeman and material damage.
Classes at the Lebanese University in Sidon were suspended, and scheduled exams were postponed to a later date. Measures were implemented in the vicinity of the camp to protect people from stray bullets.
The Palestinian source noted: “Fatah will not back down from its demand to arrest the wanted individuals, especially since it was tasked by the Joint Palestinian Action Committee to do so, and it will not abandon this mission.
“The clashes have broader implications, especially in light of a media campaign by resistance forces in Lebanon, holding Fatah responsible for bombing Sidon and occupying UNRWA schools. This suggests that the clashes aim to weaken Fatah in Lebanon’s largest camps in favor of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.”
The source added: “Extremist groups are situated in an area considered outside the camp, making it a Lebanese jurisdiction. This matter needs resolution by the Lebanese authorities, especially since this area has become a haven for wanted individuals and fugitives.
“What is essential is the implementation of the plan to station the joint Palestinian security force inside UNRWA schools controlled by extremist group members. If they withdraw, Fatah militants will automatically vacate the schools they occupy.”
Meanwhile, Lebanese political party representatives and leaders engaged in extensive discussions with Palestinian counterparts to broker a new cease-fire. By Friday afternoon, the intensity of the clashes had diminished, with only sporadic gunfire heard.
A prominent Palestinian official told Arab News: “Our current priority is securing a cease-fire, with the implementation of the terms agreed upon by the Joint Palestinian (Action) Committee to be addressed later.”
A source familiar with the situation in Sidon said: “The city’s leaders will not take sides in these clashes but will instead stand against both parties and support the security of the camp and the security of Sidon.”
Displaced Lebanese residents from the vicinity of the Ain Al-Hilweh camp found shelter with their relatives in Sidon and the surrounding area.
UNRWA also opened its complex in the Sibline area, 14 km from Sidon, to accommodate displaced refugees.


Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights

Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights
Updated 20 min 12 sec ago
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Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights

Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights
  • Emirates suspends check-in for all customers in its network travelling with onward connections through Dubai

DUBAI: Dubai’s flydubai airline canceled flights to Iran on Friday after receiving an official alert, a statement said.

“In line with the issued NOTAM (notice to air missions), our flights to Iran today have been canceled,” said the statement

One flight which had already departed for Tehran returned to Dubai after the Iranian capital’s airport was closed, it added.

Flights were suspended across swathes of Iran as Iranian state media reported explosions in the central province of Isfahan.

Flight-tracking software showed commercial flights avoiding western Iran, including Isfahan, and skirting Tehran to the north and east.

Emirates meanwhile said on Friday it was suspending check-in for all customers in its network travelling with onward connections through Dubai until 2359 GMT on April 19.

Emirates, one of the world’s biggest international airlines, added that customers travelling to Dubai as their final destination may check-in and travel as usual.

Emirates and flydubai have experienced serious disruption this week after record rainfall caused more than 1,000 flight cancelations at Dubai airport, one of the world’s busiest air hubs.


Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
Updated 19 April 2024
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Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
  • Drones shot down over Isfahan, says Iranian state media
  • Israel military refuses to comment on incident

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran, ABC News reported late on Thursday, citing a US official, while Iranian state media reported an explosion in the center of the country, days after Iran launched a retaliatory drone strike on Israel.

Commercial flights began diverting their routes early Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as one semiofficial news agency in the Islamic Republic claimed there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.

Some Emirates and Flydubai flights that were flying over Iran early on Friday made sudden sharp turns away from the airspace, according to flight paths shown on tracking website Flightradar24.

“Flights over Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran cities have been suspended,” state media reported.

Iranian officials said its air defenses did shot down several drones but there had been “no missile attack for now” on the country.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday morning across several provinces after reports of explosions near the city of Isfahan.

Several drones “have been successfully shot down by the country’s air defense, there are no reports of a missile attack for now,” Iran’s space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian says on X.

The Fars news agency said “three explosions” were heard near the Shekari army airbase near Isfahan.

Iran’s local media also reported that nuclear facilities in Isfahan were “completely secure” after explosions were heard near the area.

“Nuclear facilities in Isfahan province are completely secure,” Tasnim news agency reports, quoting “reliable sources.”

Israel had said it would retaliate against Iran’s weekend attack, which involved hundreds of drones and missiles in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the Iranian drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Isfahan, Isome 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran, is also home to a major air base for the Iranian military.

Meanwhile in Iraq where a number of Iranian-backed militias are based, residents in Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions, but the source of the noise was not immediately clear.

In Syria, a local activist group said strikes hit an army position in the south of the country Friday. 

“There were strikes on a Syrian army radar position,” said Rayan Maarouf, who runs the Suwayda24 anti-government website that covers news from Sweida province in the south.

Iranian military positions in Syria had been frequently targetted by Israeli air strikes over the past years. Early this month, an Israeli strike demolished a consular building annex of the Iranian Embassy in Sydia's capital Damascus, killing 13 people, including two generals of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, triggering the Iranian missiles and drones attack on Israel on April 13.

At the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Iran urged member nations that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”

Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack.

Analysts and observers have been raising concerns about the risks of the Israel-Gaza war spreading into the rest of the region.

Oil prices and jumped on the reports of the Israeli strike. Brent crude futures rose 2 percent to $88.86 a barrel, the dollar gained broadly, gold rose 1 percent and S&P 500 futures dropped 1 percent.

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s military offensive has killed over 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.
Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, launching attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.


United States had advance warning of Israel attack on Iran: US media

United States had advance warning of Israel attack on Iran: US media
Updated 31 min 46 sec ago
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United States had advance warning of Israel attack on Iran: US media

United States had advance warning of Israel attack on Iran: US media
  • US media: Israel had provided Washington with pre-notification of the strike
  • Tehran’s two major airports resumed flights following a brief suspension

DUBAI/WASHINGTON/TEHRAN: The United States received advance notice of Israel’s reported strike on Iran but did not endorse the operation or play any part in its execution, US media quoted officials as saying.

NBC and CNN, citing sources familiar with the matter and a US official, respectively, said Israel had provided Washington with pre-notification of the strike.

Various networks cited officials confirming a strike had taken place inside Iran, with CNN quoting one official as stating the target was not a nuclear facility.

Israel told the United States on Thursday it would be retaliating against Iran in the coming days, a senior US official told CNN.

“We didn’t endorse the response,” the official said, according to CNN.

There was no immediate comment from the White House about the Israeli strike.

In response to a query from AFP, the Pentagon duty desk said: “We do not have anything to offer at this time.”

Iran activated its air defense system over several cities, state media reported, after the country’s official broadcaster said explosions were heard near the central city of Isfahan.

Israel warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at its arch-foe over the weekend. Most of them were intercepted.

That weekend barrage came in the wake of an attack on Iran’s consulate in Damascus widely blamed on Israel.

Tehran’s two major airports resumed flights on Friday, state media reported, following a brief suspension after explosions were heard in central Iran.

“Flights through Imam Khomeini and Mehrabad airports have resumed,” the official IRNA news agency reported.

Commercial flights began diverting their routes early Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as one semiofficial news agency in the Islamic Republic claimed there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.

Some Emirates and Flydubai flights that were flying over Iran early on Friday made sudden sharp turns away from the airspace, according to flight paths shown on tracking website Flightradar24.

“Flights over Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran cities have been suspended,” state media reported.

Iranian officials said its air defenses did shot down several drones but there had been “no missile attack for now” on the country.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday morning across several provinces after reports of explosions near the city of Isfahan.

Several drones “have been successfully shot down by the country’s air defense, there are no reports of a missile attack for now,” Iran’s space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian says on X.

The Fars news agency said “three explosions” were heard near the Shekari army airbase near Isfahan.

Iran’s local media also reported that nuclear facilities in Isfahan were “completely secure” after explosions were heard near the area.

“Nuclear facilities in Isfahan province are completely secure,” Tasnim news agency reports, quoting “reliable sources.”

Israel had said it would retaliate against Iran’s weekend attack, which involved hundreds of drones and missiles in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the Iranian drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Isfahan, Isome 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran, is also home to a major air base for the Iranian military.


Meanwhile in Iraq where a number of Iranian-backed militias are based, residents in Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions, but the source of the noise was not immediately clear.

In Syria, a local activist group said strikes hit an army position in the south of the country Friday. 

“There were strikes on a Syrian army radar position,” said Rayan Maarouf, who runs the Suwayda24 anti-government website that covers news from Sweida province in the south.

Iranian military positions in Syria had been frequently targetted by Israeli air strikes over the past years. Early this month, an Israeli strike demolished a consular building annex of the Iranian Embassy in Sydia's capital Damascus, killing 13 people, including two generals of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, triggering the Iranian missiles and drones attack on Israel on April 13.

At the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Iran urged member nations that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”

 

Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack.

Analysts and observers have been raising concerns about the risks of the Israel-Gaza war spreading into the rest of the region.

Oil prices and jumped on the reports of the Israeli strike. Brent crude futures rose 2 percent to $88.86 a barrel, the dollar gained broadly, gold rose 1 percent and S&P 500 futures dropped 1 percent.

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s military offensive has killed over 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.

Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, launching attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.


Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid
Updated 19 April 2024
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Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Palestinian militant group Hamas condemned on Friday the US veto that ended a long-shot Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership.
“Hamas condemns the American veto at the Security Council of the draft resolution granting Palestine full membership in the United Nations,” the Gaza Strip rulers said in a statement, which comes amid growing international concern over the toll inflicted by the war in the besieged Palestinian territory.
The veto by Israel’s main ally and military backer had been expected ahead of the vote, which took place more than six months into Israel’s offensive in Gaza, in retaliation for the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas militants.
Twelve countries voted in favor of the draft resolution, which was introduced by Algeria and “recommends to the General Assembly that the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.” Britain and Switzerland abstained.


Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike
Updated 36 min 27 sec ago
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Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike
  • ‘We retrieved the remains of children and women, finding arms and feet. They were all torn to pieces’

An Israeli strike hit the home where a displaced Palestinian family was sheltering in the southern city of Rafah, relatives and neighbors said as they scraped at the soil with their hands.

Al-Arja said the blast killed at least 10 people.

“We retrieved the remains of children and women, finding arms and feet. They were all torn to pieces.

“This is horrifying. It’s not normal,” he said, hauling concrete and broken olive branches from the wreckage. “The entire world is complicit.”

Soon after the war began on Oct. 7, Israel told Palestinians living in the north of Gaza to move to “safe zones” in the territory’s south, like Rafah.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since vowed to invade the city, where around 1.5 million people live in shelters, more than half the territory’s population.

“How is Rafah a safe place?” said Zeyad Ayyad, a relative of the victims. He sighed as he cradled a fragment of the remains.

“I heard the bombing last night and then went back to sleep. I did not think it hit my aunt’s house.”

The search for remains was long and painful. The strike left a huge crater and children picked through the rubble while neighbors removed debris, tarpaulin, a pink top.

“We can see them under the rubble and we’re unable to retrieve them,” Al-Arja said. 

“These are people who came from the north because it was said the south is safe.”

“They struck without any warning,” he said.

In a separate strike on the house in Rafah’s Al-Salam neighborhood overnight on Tuesday, rescue crews recovered the corpses of eight family members, including five children and two women, Gaza’s civil defense service said.

“An Israeli rocket hit a house of displaced people,” said resident Sami Nyrab. 

“My sister’s son-in-law, her daughter, and her children were having dinner when an Israeli missile demolished their house over their heads.”