Clashes reported in Palestinian refugee camp near Beirut

Officials sketchy with details; say three people wounded in violence.

lebanon clashes, again (photo credit: AP)
lebanon clashes, again
(photo credit: AP)
Gunmen clashed in a Palestinian refugee camp on the southern edges of the Lebanese capital on Friday, security officials said, and three people were wounded amid sketchy reports about exactly what happened. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press, said they had no details what had caused the incident, which involved a shootout with automatic rifles Friday morning in the Bourj el-Barajneh camp, south of Beirut. The officials said three people were wounded - two from the Palestinian mainstream Fatah group and one from the rival Syria-backed radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. An official of the PFLP-GC in the camp, Ramez Mustafa, described the incident as a squabble between two families, the al-Bashirs and the al-Habets. He said the squabble erupted into a gunfight near the Palestinian group's offices after Friday noon prayers. "We were caught in the middle but we did not respond," Mustafa told The Associated Press. However, chief PFLP-GC spokesman, Anwar Raja, based in neighboring Syria, said the gunfight started as a family clash but later turned political. He did not say whether the two families were from opposing Palestinian factions. But Raja withdrew his own earlier accusation that Fatah tried to take over the Palestinian group's office. Khaled Aref, a senior Fatah official in Lebanon, confirmed two of his fighters were wounded and accused the PFLP-GC of trying to storm a Fatah office inside the camp. It was not clear whether Raja and Aref were referring to the same incident or if there were more gunfights in Bourj el-Barajneh Friday. Journalists were not allowed inside the camp. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was in Lebanon amid efforts to resolve a political deadlock between rival Lebanese factions ahead of critical presidential elections, said the gunfight was "regrettable." "I urge all people here to refrain from taking to such violent means," Ban told reporters at Beirut airport before leaving the country. "All different issues and opinions should be resolved through dialogue in a peaceful manner." Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are generally known for lawlessness and armed groups vying for control. The Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon was the scene of heavy fighting between Lebanese troops and al-Qaida-inspired Islamic militants from May to September. That battle left around 400 people dead, including Lebanese soldiers, Islamic militants and civilians. Since then, tensions have persisted in some of the 11 other Palestinian refugee camps across the country, amid fears of a repetition of the violence. The camps - where Lebanese troops have no entry - are controlled by Palestinian groups.