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Clashes resume in largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, killing 3 and wounding 10

BEIRUT (AP) — Clashes resumed early Saturday at the largest refugee camp in Lebanon between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group and militant Islamist groups, killing three people and wounding 10 others.

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, discussed with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the volatile situation in an attempt to end the fighting.

Mikati called for an end to the fighting saying that what is happening in Ein el-Hilweh “does not serve the Palestinian cause and is harmful to the Lebanese state.”

Sounds of gunfire and explosions could be heard in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp and nearby areas on the edge of the southern port city of Sidon.

The fighting resumed Friday, after a month of creative calm, forcing hundreds of people to flee for safety in nearby areas.

Fatah had accused the militant Islamist groups of gunning down one of their top military officials on July 30.

At least 20 people were wounded Friday.

The Lebanese army said in a statement that it is taking measures, including contacting several sides, to work on ending the clashes. It also called on people to avoid getting close to areas of fighting.

A Lebanese security official said the three people killed on Saturday included two Palestinians inside the camp and a Lebanese man who was hit with a stray bullet while driving outside Ein el-Hilweh. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said 10 others were wounded.

Senior Fatah official, Maj. Gen. Munir Makdah, refused to discuss the situation inside the camp when contacted by The Associated Press but said Fatah officials in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories are for a cease-fire and blamed the militant groups for not respecting it.

“There is ongoing chaos. There is no battle but chaos and shooting from a long distance,” Makdah said from inside the camp.

Late on Saturday, the municipality of Sidon, with the help of the Lebanese Red Cross and the civil defense, set up more than a dozen tents at the northern entrance of the city to house scores of people displaced by the fighting.

“This is a temporary shelter and not a permanent one,” said Mustafa Hijazi, an official at the municipality of Sidon, adding that 16 tents were set up Saturday to house between 100 and 150 people. Hijazi said the plan is to reach 250.

Hijazi added that mobile toilets were also put in place near the tents and the Lebanese Red Cross and the civil society will work on bringing water.

Ein el-Hilweh is notorious for its lawlessness and violence is not uncommon in the camp. The United Nations says about 55,000 people live in the camp, which was established in 1948 to house Palestinians who were displaced when Israel was established.

Earlier this summer, there were several days of street battles in the Ein el-Hilweh camp between Fatah and members of the extremist Jund al-Sham group that left 13 people dead and dozens wounded.

An uneasy truce had been in place since Aug. 3, but clashes were widely expected to resume as the Islamist groups have not handed those accused of killing the Fatah general to the Lebanese judiciary, as demanded by a committee of Palestinian factions last month.

Lebanon is home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Many live in the 12 refugee camps that are scattered around the small Mediterranean country.

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