Alwaght- Ain al-Hilweh camp for Palestinian refugees in southern Lebanon on Thursday night once again witnessed clashes between radical militants and Fatah Movement’s forces. Clashes immediately followed two bombs going off in the camp, and media outlets reported use of machine guns and rockets, mainly in Saida neighborhoods. The clashes continued to Friday morning and reportedly left about 20 injured.
As the clashes raged, tens of families had to evacuate their houses and exit the camp to safely. Palestinian Fatah Movement in a statement said that with the help of National Security Forces of Palestine it thwarted attack of terrorists affiliated with assassins of General Abu Ashraf al-Armoushi, the former Fatah commander in Ain al-Hilweh, as they planned to obstruct a meeting of Palestinian Joint Action Committee (PJAC).
According to Palestinian sources, the attack by the National Security Forces and the Fatah movement on the extremist fighters is probably a response to the failure by the radicals to hand over the suspects in the assassination of al-Armoushi.
After several hours of shootout between the opposite forces, the PJAC announced in a statement that relative peace was restored in the camp due to a ceasefire. Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri reportedly contacted Palestinian political leaders and asked them to work to calm the situation and prevent further clashes.
In mid-July, Ain al-Hilweh had witnessed clashes between the two sides that were dragged out for about a week, killing 11 and injuring over 60.
Ain al-Hilweh camp with an area of 3 square kilometers is the largest camp in Lebanon that accommodates Palestinian refugees. It was established in 1948 and according to the official UN statistics, it houses about 50,000 Palestinians, but according to unofficial statistics, this number reaches 70,000. Due to the density of population and the existence of a network of complex tunnels, this camp has provided a safe haven for the growth of Salafi factions, to an extent that it is out of control of the Lebanese army.
Stymieing the solution of Lebanon political crisis
Though Ain al-Hilweh clashes are seemingly inter-Palestinian, due to the location of the camp in the sensitive southern Lebanon as the bastion of Hezbollah, there are hidden goals behind them that target Lebanese security and stability. The new round of armed clashes come as in recent weeks talks between Hezbollah and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) over the president post have made considerable progress and Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and FPM head Gibran Bassil sounded upbeat about electing a president by September’s end. Berri, too, voiced his optimism about a conclusion to presidential case this month.
At the same time, at regional levels, efforts are underway to find a solution to the political crisis in Lebanon, and Iran’s Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian, during his recent trip to Lebanon, assured Beirut officials that the agreements between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia, two countries with influence in Lebanon, are effective and this will have a positive influence on the entire region and Lebanon.
In addition to promising news about politics, Lebanon had seen potential progress economically. Lebanese officials said that following an agreement with France’s energy giant Total and Italy’s Eni, gas exploration in the Mediterranean has started, and should production start in the country’s rich energy reserves, a large part of the economic woes will be alleviated.
Therefore, at a time the Lebanese sides are trying to save Lebanon from the political and economic predicament after several years, some foreign parties are trying to prevent the country’s movement to peace by fomenting a new crisis in this country. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati had earlier said that the clashes in the Ain al-Hilweh camp were part of a push by foreign sides to settle scores.
The Israeli regime and the US, both afraid of Lebanon’s stability, are trying to delay the process of electing the president and prime minister by fueling a conflict between Palestinian groups in the camp and making southern Lebanon insecure. They know that with the election of a new president and subsequently formation of a new cabinet, their plans for deeper influence in Lebanon will be ruined and actually Lebanon’s national convergence can wreak foreign plots.
Though Iranian-Saudi agreement revived the hopes about restoration of stability to Lebanon, Ain al-Hilweh fighting can set up roadblocks ahead of regional collaboration over Lebanon. Though Mikati in reaction to last month warnings by some Arab countries to their citizens about travel to Lebanon said that there was no reason for worrying about the country’s security conditions, the outburst of short clashes was enough for the US to fish in troubled waters and keep Arab countries away from political and economic cooperation with Beirut to advance its evil plans.
To secure its goals, Washington even mobilized the international influence, and the extension for another year of the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon is part of these efforts to help the Americans and Israelis imply to the world that Lebanon is still unstable and needs international peacekeepers. To implement their plan, they needed to hatch a new scenario and Ain al-Hilweh fighting was the best option.
Tying down Hezbollah in Ain al-Hilweh
With the camp clashes largely suspicious, experts do not rule out Israeli active role in this sedition. After all, amid increasing deterrence power of Hezbollah and weakening of Israeli military driven by home political conflicts, any tensions in Lebanon, especially on the southern borders, plays into the hands of Tel Aviv.
Since the tensions between Hezbollah and the Israeli regime have escalated in recent months and concerns about a new conflict in southern Lebanon have increased, fueling the conflicts in Ain al-Hilweh causes the Lebanese army and Hezbollah to zero in on this security crisis. Israeli confrontation of Hezbollah at a time the occupied territories are facing a wave of political crises can cause serious damage to this regime, and therefore the Israelis seek to foment a crisis inside Lebanon in order to divert Hezbollah attention from Israeli developments.
Israeli officials have repeatedly admitted that should a war breaks out with Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese movement will fire 2,000 missiles at Israeli regime every day and warned about consequences. Since Netanyahu government is currently not ready for war with Hezbollah, it struggles to destabilize southern Lebanon to save itself from a new swamp.
Additionally, Israeli government is unhappy and severely concerned about Lebanon’s exploration for gas and so it is seeking to sow division and disrupt the drilling operations.
Tel Aviv argues that all oil and gas resources shared with Lebanon are actually Israeli and resists to them shared with Lebanon. Israels know that if produced and sold, these energy resources not only salvage Lebanon from the four-year economic crisis, but also inject cash into Hezbollah weapons arsenals and make the movement stronger than before, something turning into a nightmare to the Israelis.
Ain al-Hilweh clashes re-erupted as the US energy envoy to Lebanon Amos Hochstein traveled to Lebanon earlier this month to discuss maritime borders demarcation, a visit some experts say is aimed at putting the skids under Lebanon’s gas exploration at Karish gas field.