PEOPLE WALK THROUGH a Lebanese Army checkpoint at an entrance to the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon in September..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Lebanese Army informed the joint Palestinian leadership in Lebanon on Friday that it has halted construction of a cement wall around parts of the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon, the country’s largest, following popular protests.
“We were officially informed this morning by Colonel Khader Hamoud that the leadership of the [Lebanese] army responded positively to the Palestinian leadership’s demands and stopped construction of the wall,” a joint Palestinian leadership in Lebanon statement said.
The joint Palestinian leadership in Lebanon originally consented to the building of the wall, but subsequently asked Lebanese authorities to reconsider the project.
The Lebanese Army began building the wall last week near the southern section of the camp, which houses some 120,000 Palestinian and Syrian refugees in conditions of relative squalor.
The joint Palestinian leadership added that it “will prepare a [report] in the next two weeks for dealing with the security situation in the camps, especially the Ain al-Hilweh camp” and praised camp residents for protesting the wall in “a peaceful and civilized manner.”
Thousands of Ain al-Hilweh residents gathered in the camp and near constructed parts of the wall, raising posters referring to it as “the wall of shame.”
Azzam al-Ahmed, a Palestinian official in charge of Palestinian affairs in Lebanon, told The Jerusalem Post
that he welcomes the decision to halt the construction of the wall.
“We welcome the decision to freeze all projects near the camp until there is mutual understanding between all sides,” Ahmad said. “We will review the situation in Ain al-Hilweh after the Fatah Congress.”
Fatah is expected to hold a major leadership conference this week to elect its top two leadership bodies, the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council, and set a strategy for the upcoming five years.
Ahmad added that he just returned from Lebanon, where he discussed the ongoing situation in Ain al-Hilweh with Palestinian and Lebanese officials.
Ain al-Hilweh has recently suffered from poor security. In June 2015, top Fatah leader Talal Balawna was assassinated there. Two months later, armed clashes between Fatah and an Islamist terrorist group, Jund al-Sham, broke out in the camp, lasting for more than a week. In September 2016, the Lebanese military arrested the founder of Jund al-sham, Imad Yasmin, in the camp, whom it charges is also an ISIS leader.
However, Palestinian officials including Ahmad have said that the security situation in the camp “is stable despite attempts by terrorist groups to infiltrate the camp.”