Fighting among Palestinians in Lebanon Could Be a Harbinger of Things to Come

August 2, 2023 | Benny Avni
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On Monday, three days of fighting in the Palestinian settlement of Ein el-Hilweh, Lebanon came to an end, leaving an estimated nine dead and 40 wounded. It appears that the efforts of Fatah, the PLO faction that governs much of the West Bank, to exert its dominance over its rivals among Lebanese Palestinians had led to a violent backlash from jihadist groups. A ceasefire was brokered with the help of Hizballah, the Iran-backed terrorist group that exerts de-facto control over the country. Benny Avni explains:

The clash at Ein el-Hilweh, on the edges of the Lebanese city of Sidon, is part of tensions between factions vying for power inside one of twelve UN-run Palestinian enclosures in Lebanon. While defined as refugee camps, they are in fact midsized, autonomous cities wallowing in poverty, anger, and militancy. The escalation of tensions between a faction loyal to the Ramallah-based Fatah and armed Islamic fundamentalists worries the Beirut leadership, which is already struggling to address Lebanon’s multiple crises. It could also be a harbinger of infighting among Palestinians elsewhere, including in the West Bank.

The Lebanese army and its law-enforcement officials rarely enter the Palestinian enclaves, where the only outside authority is the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which cares for Palestinians residing in Lebanon, as well as some nearly half a million Palestinians who maintain their refugee status in several Arab countries, the West Bank, and Gaza.

In Lebanon, some 200,000 descendants of Arabs who had been relocated during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 are under UNRWA’s care. . . . Palestinians in Lebanese UNRWA-run enclaves are denied citizenship and are barred from working in most professions, and their travel is restricted. Inside, the camps are divided by neighborhoods according to rivaling loyalties—to family, clan, political affiliation, religion, or ideology. Clashes occur regularly, though this weekend’s fire exchange marks an uptick in violence.

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